What are these plants in my yard, and what do I do about them?
March 22, 2010 9:32 PM   Subscribe

What are these weeds/trees/green things that are all over my yard, and can I do anything about them?

I'm finding these weeds (higher-res shot) all over my yard, both in the landscaping and the lawn, and they are spreading like wildfire.

Here's an ~18" specimen I found this evening.

I believe this is a mature one in the neighbor's yard, and a close-up of its leaves.

What are they, and what can I do about them? I'm not keen on using Round Up, and have been pulling as many as I can whenever I'm in the yard but I'll never keep up. The ones in the lawn just seem to leave tough stems and spread despite being mowed every week. Thanks!
posted by DakotaPaul to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Would probably help to know where you live.
posted by salishsea at 9:40 PM on March 22, 2010

Could be vinca minor, aka periwinkle or creeping myrtle. It can be an attractive groundcover in the right place, and is especially helpful on slopes as a counter to erosion, but has a tendency to get out of hand if left to its own devices.

It's likely that repeated mowing at a low enough height will eventually kill the individual plants, especially if you work on making the grass healthy enough to compete. I would use herbicide -- paintbrushed on individual plants -- to get it under control to begin with, though. You can even dig it out if you can locate the base stems.
posted by dhartung at 9:43 PM on March 22, 2010

You can use a broad-leaf herbicide on them. I use Milestone, a very expensive weed killer in my pasture. It works very well on most broad-leaf weeds. A cheaper, less expensive herbicide is 2-4-D. Neither will kill your lawn if used as directed. Be sure to follow all directions carefully and do not use if it will drain into a fish pond or lake. Also, buy a small stirrup pump to use with this material and do not use it for anything else.
posted by Old Geezer at 9:59 PM on March 22, 2010

Response by poster: Oh duh. I'm in the Central Valley of California.
posted by DakotaPaul at 10:00 PM on March 22, 2010

Response by poster: I should also note that they're not vines, or runners/creepers, they're always individual plants. I actually do have areas of creeping myrtle in my yard and these things do look like it, but they're never connected or vine-like.
posted by DakotaPaul at 10:03 PM on March 22, 2010

Best answer: That's not vinca, (so thank your deity of choice right now, vinca is EVIL) but it is probably another of the unholy trinity I'm fighting in my yard, the privet (English ivy being the third).

They're being spread by the berries, so that's one way to stop them from emerging once you've got them under control.

As for controlling... well. I just pull them out. It's the easiest way for me. If you get them while they're young they just pop right out.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:03 PM on March 22, 2010

This looks like privet to me.
posted by gt2 at 10:03 PM on March 22, 2010

or yes, what elsietheeel said
posted by gt2 at 10:03 PM on March 22, 2010

Response by poster: For instance, the ~18" specimen was growing straight up out of the ground. I've pulled one out that was at least 36" tall, and they're always straight as an arrow with little branching.
posted by DakotaPaul at 10:05 PM on March 22, 2010

Yay Central Valley! Check out Davis' Invasive Pest Management website.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:05 PM on March 22, 2010

Response by poster: elsietheeel, I've never seen a berry, flower, or anything on any of the larger ones (~36") I've found.

I wouldn't have a problem pulling them out, but they just keep coming and coming. I feel like I could spend an entire day of each weekend just battling them.
posted by DakotaPaul at 10:08 PM on March 22, 2010

Response by poster: (nor have I seen berries on the big one in the neighbor's yard, if it is the same thing.)
posted by DakotaPaul at 10:13 PM on March 22, 2010

36" isn't large - that's like a few week's growth.

The overgrown privet hedge on the north side of my property is over 40' tall. It was planted in the 50's and belongs to my neighbor. I'm sure it was lovely at one point, but now she only pollards it once every 20 years or so, so it's a total mess.

Does the one in your neighbor's yard get berries? Although, privets are so invasive and common in the Sacramento area, that one might not even be the problem. I bet there's a hundred privets within a mile radius of your house. The birds eat the berries, and then come poo on your lawn. And then you get privet seedlings.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:14 PM on March 22, 2010

Response by poster: Looking at a lot of photos, and I think you're right, elsietheeel. Looks like we're facing the same unholy trinity. And here I thought the vinca was pretty!

Guess I'll stick to plucking them out. Thank you for the help!
posted by DakotaPaul at 10:25 PM on March 22, 2010

I was going to say Ligustrum of some kind, but I couldn't find the right one. And privet seems right.
posted by misha at 10:32 PM on March 22, 2010

Oh, I thought the vinca was pretty too. I planted it under my deck and I planted it in the front flowerbed. Ten years later, I'm faced with digging it out from under my deck, and I'm renting a skid steer next week to excavate the front - and then I'm laying landscape fabric and putting down five inches of gravel.

The stuff under the deck didn't spread as badly, so that won't be too difficult, but the stuff in the front? It choked out EVERYTHING else that grew out there. Margarita daisies, sweet broom (also invasive, don't plant!), lavender (Mexican and French), poppies, wallflowers, and it even stopped the blackberry canes from invading. And it always manages to regenerate after weed whacking or mowing.

I don't even want to talk about the ivy.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:39 PM on March 22, 2010

Could be Pittosporum. (Google image link) Glossy leaves, can be shrubs or trees. Our trees (coastal california) sure do spread all over. I yank those things out all the time.
posted by troyer at 10:52 PM on March 22, 2010

Does your yard need ground cover to stop erosion? Do you want a grass lawn that requires mowing and watering and fertilizing? Assess your needs, and get help from your Cooperative Extension office.
posted by theora55 at 7:08 AM on March 23, 2010

Privet, yes, probably. For some reason the "mature" image didn't load for me so I didn't see this as anything but groundcover.

Similarly, they have a long tradition of being a good hedge, but they also have disadvantages such as being toxic to certain animals like horses, dogs, and cats. They need -- and by need, I mean absolutely require -- maintenance at least annually. I find this relaxing, and quite enjoyed the 3-4 years I spent getting a privet hedge just over our property line under control until the new neighbor decided to cut most of them down and replace them with an ugly chain-link fence.

Never had a problem with them growing successfully in a mowed lawn, though.
posted by dhartung at 9:43 AM on March 23, 2010

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