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Weeds and Their Control: Yellow Nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus)

Anyone who has had yellow nutsedge in their lawn knows what a terrible problem it can be. Its leaves resemble grass but grow more quickly and so make the lawn look rough and unkempt before the grass needs mowing. A perennial, yellow nutgrass is found throughout North America and thrives in poorly drained soils. Its appearance in an area may be an indicator of wet soils and/or over-watering. It is invasive and difficult to eradicate.

Description: The shiny yellow–green leaves of yellow nutsedge are ½ inch wide and up to 2½ feet long. They have a noticeable ridge along the midrib and are produced in groups of three. The solid unbranched stems are triangular in cross section and grow up to 3 feet tall, bearing spikes of golden brown flowers at their tips in late summer and fall. The football-shaped seeds are triangular in cross-section and are not the main method of reproduction. Seedlings are rarely seen. The main method of reproduction is by the growth of corms, also called nutlets, that grow singly from rhizomes, creeping underground stems that resemble roots. Although these nutlets are edible and used for culinary purposes, they are the reason nutsedge is so difficult to control.

Nutsedge can be distinguished from grass in several ways. The leaves of nutsedge are arranged in sets of three at the base while those of grass are arranged in sets of two. In addition, the stems of nutsedge are solid and triangular in cross-section while those of grass are hollow and round.

Weeds and their Control Pointer Control: Nutsedge can be dug out of the garden if enough of the underground portion of the plant is removed. Hand pulling nutsedge is ineffective as a control measure because the leaves and stem easily break off at ground level leaving the rhizomes and nutlets in the ground. The removal of the top portion of the plant stimulates the growth of the nutlets and multiple plants emerge from the original one. Most herbicides kill the above ground parts of the plant but have little or no effect on the nutlets. Special herbicides like “Sedgehammer” are the most effective method of control.
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