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Weeds of the South: Rattlesnake Weed

A few weeks ago, I received a phone call regarding a weed that had over taken part of a homeowner’s yard. Like I normally do I asked them to describe the plant, how long it had been growing and if they have seen it in the past. This very kind lady assured me she knew exactly what she had: rattlesnake weed. After we went through the literature and created a plan for taking care of this weed, I thought it would benefit a lot of my readers to have this information also.

                One important part of any weed/insect management program is knowing a little more in-depth knowledge of each pest. Plus, if you’re like me, sometimes learning the details is nice. Rattlesnake weed (Stachys floridana), also know as Florida betony, is a member of the Labiataefamily of plants, making it a type of mint. This winter annual weed has a square stem and leaves on opposites sides. It produces purple flowers and has the structure similar to other mint plants. The one key differentiating factor to this weed is its roots, that are long tubers that look like rattle snake tails.

                Since the roots are very hardy, even if you mow or kill the top portion, the tubers often remain intact. If you want to truly manage these weeds, there are a select few chemicals available. The main choices to consider are atrazine, 2-4D and dicamba. Each will have different timing and applications rates. For example, now is the time for the first application of atrazine followed by another in February. Check the labels to be sure your turfgrass is tolerant to the chemical you choose and what rates are appropriate.

                Although chemical control is almost always necessary for this hardy weed, there are cultural approached that are important to consider. Grass that is stressed out is more susceptible to being overtaken by weeds. Whether that be from excess moisture, bad fertility, low pH or something similar. It is always a good idea to get a soil sample done every few years, just to make sure your soil health is where it needs to be. A healthy soil leads to grass that can choke weeds out, instead of the other way around.                 If you have, or think you have rattlesnake weed, give me a call or come see me at the extension office. I can come and check your yard and take soil samples to help get your yard where you want it. Also, we will be starting a bee club next year, and you can call to sign up for the inaugural meeting in February. Call me at 229-524-2326. Be safe out there.