Plant Identification of Woody Weeds
Woody weeds are hardy plants that can be tough to eliminate even with advancements in weed control technology. Successful eradication involves identifying the weed, and purchasing and applying the proper weed control treatment. Herbicides specific for woody weeds are most commonly used after the plant has been properly identified.
Woody weeds grow as vines, shrubs or trees. Botanists and gardeners look for a small list of visual characteristics to help identify the specific qualities of these difficult-to-remove plants. The size and shape of foliage, stems and roots can help in the elimination process of the plant from the garden. Woody weeds are found in each of the three main categories: broadleaf, needle- leaf, and thin-leaved plants.
Plant organs are not the only clues botanists and gardeners have to help them identify unwanted plants in the garden. Growth cycles are extremely important. Whether the plant is annual or perennial can quickly eliminate identification possibilities. The regional climate where the plant is located is also an important factor.
There are hundreds of species of plants that fall into the category of woody weeds. Bamboo, English ivy and scrub brush are all common woody weeds that are commonly found in North American gardens. Various fruit-bearing plants also fall into this category including wild blackberries and strawberries whose roots can steal valuable nutrients form other plants. Gum trees and poison oak are extremely difficult to remove by hand from the garden, as even small fragments of the roots of these plants can develop into whole plants.
It is necessary to be familiar with the horticultural terminology regarding woody weed identification to better understand the description of plant possibilities. When referring to plant growth cycles, annual weeds are plants that grow for a single season before dying, biennial weeds grow for two seasons and perennial plants can grow and reproduce for many years before dying.
Plants may also be referred to by the way their leaves develop on the branches. Leaves can grow in two ways: "opposite" describes leaves that grow across from each other, and "alternate" development is when the leaves are not directly across from each other.
Root barriers and mulches are often used to help stunt the growth of roots and seedlings in the garden. Neither of these will give complete control and will eventually give way to roots that find their way beneath the barrier. Fire removal and grazing are also not effective for controlling woody weeds. In fact, besides causing serious health hazards to humans, burn can increase the population of plants by adding nutrients to the soil.
Post-emergent herbicides that include flauzifop, glyphosate and triclopyr are effective in controlling perennial grasses, woody weed trees and shrubs. Gardeners must follow package directions and manufacturing guidelines on tge use of these products. Misuse can seriously damage the garden and nearby environments sensitive to chemical influence.
- "Manual of Woody Landscape Plants"; Michael A. Dirr; 1998
- "Weed Science: Principles and Practices"; Thomas Monaco; 2002
- University of California: Pests in Gardens and Landscapes: Woody Weed Invaders