(Family Features) - Three similar-seeming, grassy-looking weeds appear early each spring. All three grow from underground bulbs. All three are perennials that not only come back every year, but also spread. All three form clumps that are bothersome in gardens and unsightly in lawns.
Wild garlic and wild onion are fairly easy to control in March, said Ward Upham, horticulturist with Kansas State University Research and Extension. But, Star-of-Bethlehem has no easy solution.
Upham outlined these characteristics to help homeowners recognize which weeds are at work:
- Wild garlic (Allium vineale) has waxy, upright, needle-shaped leaves that are round and hollow, grow 8-12 inches long, and smell like garlic - as do its underground bulbs. The plant´s April-June flowers appear on short stems and vary in color from reddish purple
to pink to greenish white.
- Wild onion (Allium canadense) also has waxy, upright, needle-shaped leaves that grow 8-12 inches long. But, they are flat and solid, not round and hollow. And, only the plant´s scaly-looking bulbs have a strong onion odor. Its April-June flowers have no stem and are white with pink-red accents.
- Star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum) is a bedding plant that escaped. Its sprawling, thick, waxy leaves have a white stripe running down the center rib. It has little to no odor. The plant´s pure-white, six-petal flowers appear in late spring. Then the plant dies back, only to appear again in fall. "All parts of the Star-of-Bethlehem are toxic, but especially the bulbs," Upham warned.
He recommends spot spraying the weeds, if appropriate, adding a sticker-spreader to the spray. "A number of common herbicides list wild garlic and wild onions on their label. County Extension offices can share university recommendations," Upham said. "But, another approach is to try digging up these three weeds. Or, homeowners may want to try Weed Free Zone or Speed Zone on all three, since Virginia Tech has had some success with Star-of-Bethlehem and a carfentraz one product."