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What Is Taking Over My Lawn?

Bob Moffitt / Capital Public Radio

Bob Moffitt / Capital Public Radio

It seems that every year a different weed launches an attack on lawns. This year's intruder is pervasive and invasive.

According to Whitney Brim Deforest of the UC Davis Cooperative Extension, the uninvited guest is euphorbia maculata, which sounds nice, but which is anything but euphorious for lawns.

It is commonly known as "spotted spurge," which, coincidentally or not, rhymes with scourge. It's spindly, with small flowers and leaves that are somewhat oval-shaped. And it spreads really fast.

Brim Deforest says grass isn't able to do the sorts of things a plantsneeds to fend off the invaders.

"In order for a plant to be competitive, it needs to somehow be able to take up things that plants need most," she says. "It needs to to take up space quickly, it needs also to be able to take up water and fertilizer or nutrients quickly and it also needs to be able to capture sunlight. So, if you think about a lawn, it doesn't really do any of those things particularly well."

She says each blade of grass in your lawn has a life span, which is why it's important to reseed every year.

"If you have a lot of weeds in the back yard and you don't want to take them to the front yard, make sure, that if you're mowing or doing other sort of maintenance activities, to clean out that implement. So, clean out your lawnmower or clean out your weed wacker or whatever before you move it to the front yard," she says.

Brim Deforest says neighborhood dogs on walks are also culprits in helping weed invasions.

In the end, the only way to truly get rid of the euphorbia maculata is to dig deep and pull it out.

Bob Moffitt

Sacramento Region Reporter

Bob reports on all things northern California and Nevada. His coverage of police technology, local athletes, and the environment has won a regional Associated Press and several Edward R. Murrow awards.   Read Full Bio 

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