March 16, 2010

Spring Beauty and Star-of-Bethlehem

Both spring beauty (Claytonia virginica) and star-of-bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum) are spring flowering weeds that are similar in appearance and sometimes problematic in lawns. Below is a comparison of the two species including control recommendations.

Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica)

Star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum)

Description: Small perennial plant originating from corms. Leaves are oppositely arranged, fleshy with flowers at the tops of erect stems. Flowers are pinkish or whitish or may appear with white, pink stripes. Flowers have five petals and are sweetly scented with a typical bloom time in March and April in Arkansas. Typically occurs in woody, shady locations, although can be found in full-sun.

Description: Small perennial plant originating from bulbs. Leaves are narrow, smooth, and have a noticeable pale green or white stripe near the midrib. Flowers are white with six petals. Flowers typically bloom time in April in Arkansas. Plants (including flowers and bulbs) contain cardiotoxins (poisonous) and should not be eaten by humans or animals. Grows in full sun and shade.  Can be mistaken as wild garlic or wild onion when not flowering.

Control: This weed is not typically severe enough to warrant control. In fact, most homeowners enjoy having this ornamental plant in their landscape. The plants only flower for a few weeks. If you would like to control this species, encourage turf density through proper turf maintenance. Apply broadleaf herbicides, especially ester formulations, such as 2,4-D (WeedAR), MCPP (Mecomec), MCPA, dicamba (Vanquish or Banvel), or triclopyr (Turfon Ester) or combination products containing these ingredients for control if this weed is problematic. Applications of atrazine (Aatrex) or simazine (Princep) will also be effective. Check the herbicide label for specific application rates and turfgrass tolerance before use.

Control: Many homeowners enjoy having this ornamental plant in their landscape although it can become weedy and problematic in landscape beds and lawns. The plants only flower for a few weeks and are not easily visible once warm-season lawns green-up or mowing starts in the spring. Encourage turf density through proper turf maintenance. Digging bulbs is an effective means of mechanical control. Herbicide control can be obtained with some herbicides. Products containing sulfentrazone such as Dismiss, Q-4 (sulfentrazone, quinclorac, 2,4-D, dicamba) and Surge (sulfentrazone, 2,4-D, MCPP, dicamba); and products containing carfentrazone such as Quicksilver, Speedzone (carfentrazone, 2,4-D, MCPP, dicamba) will provide good control. Roundup is ineffective at controlling this plant, but paraquat (Gramoxone) will provide good non-selective control. Check the herbicide label for specific application rates and turfgrass tolerance before use.

Distinguishing characteristics: 1) Flowers with five white petals, and 2) corm as overwintering structure.

Distinguishing characteristics: 1) Flowers with six white petals, 2) bulb as overwintering structure, and 3) leaves are narrow, smooth, and have a noticeable pale green or white stripe near the midrib.

Spring Beauty and Star of Bethlehem Flowers and Plants

Dr. Aaron Patton

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