0 Weed of the Week: Mouse-ear chickweed (Cerastium vulgatum)

Weed of the Week: Mouse-ear chickweed (Cerastium vulgatum)

By Laurence Gale

What is a weed? By definition a weed is a plant that is growing in the wrong place. Weeds take valuable space, water, sunlight and nutrients that may otherwise be accessible to important crops, in our case turf grasses. Weeds not only compete for these resources they can disfigure and cause problems to playing surfaces.

Weeds are very good competitors and take advantage of any opportunities to colonise turf situations, particularly when the sward is under stress and weak, leaving bare soil areas for weeds to populate. Weeds have many mechanisms and characteristics that enable them to do this, having thick waxy cuticle leaves that can be resistant to some chemicals, fast reproduction methods, the ability to reseed in 6 week cycles and deep tap roots enabling the weed to survive in compacted dry ground conditions.

Weeds have one of three life cycles: annual; biennial or perennial.

  • Annual weeds: Live for a single season. These weeds germinate from seed in the spring or summer, flower and then die.
  • Biennial weeds: Live for two seasons. During the first growing season, these weeds remain in a vegetative stage and, in the following year, produce flowers, set seed and die.
  • Perennial weeds: Live for multiple seasons and flower more than once. Perennial structures (rhizomes, stolons, crowns, entire plants or roots) survive from year to year.

Some weeds may be harmful to the environment or noxious to your regional ecology. For example Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia Japonica) is fast becoming a major weed problem on road side verges and urban landscape areas, a very difficult weed to eradicate. It is very important to recognise weeds and seek effective controls methods to eradicate them from our facilities.

Weeds can also be used as an indicator of soil conditions. For example, knotweed and plantains both indicate soil compaction because they can maintain adequate root respiration at lower oxygen diffusion levels than other plants. Different weeds tolerate different soil conditions, some are alkaline loving and others acid loving. Getting to understand and recognise the physiology of these plants will help you become better turfgrass managers.

This week's weed is: Mouse-ear chickweed (Cerastium vulgatum)

Scientific name


Life cycle

Cerastium vulgatum



Form / Appearance Mouse-ear chickweed forms dense, prostrate patches in lawns and gardens. A spreading, mat-forming perennial with prominently hairy prostrate stems and leaves. Height(100-300mm). This weed resembles common Chickweed (Stellaria media), with both forms of weed able to reproduce and populate very quickly from seed.

Mouse-ear chickweed grows prostrate but will have several upright stems, and can tolerate close mowing.


Roots Mouse-ear chickweed has a shallow fibrous root system. This weed can easily form new plants from roots forming from the nodes of the stems.
Flowers The flowers of mouse-ear chickweed are white and contain 5 petals deeply lobed, giving the appearance of 10 petals. Flowers are produced from April-November. Cerastium_vulgatum_flowers[.jpg
Leaves The leaves are dark green and covered with short hairs that have a sticky-hairy feel. The leaves are opposite, dull-green, 1-2 cm long, 3-12 mm wide, oval to elliptic in shape. Cerastium_leaves[1].jpg
Reproductive method Mouse-ear chickweed spreads by seed, but can root at the nodes.
Habitat Mouse-ear chickweed grows in cool, moist soils, and shaded sites, but also can tolerate hot or dry conditions. The plant can be seen growing in lawns, gardens, fields. cerastium-Mouse1.jpg
Miscellaneous info Improved soil drainage can benefit control of mouse-ear chickweed. Also, decreasing shade.

Good turf management practices will encourage a thick sward reducing the opportunity for this weed to establish.

Cultural Control Whether you choose to manually remove chickweed or apply a herbicide, do it before the weed has time to go to seed. For optimum control of mouse-ear chickweed, make your post-emergent herbicide application to plants that are actively growing and in the seedling to the flower stage of growth.
Chemical Control Apply selective broadleaf herbicides when plant growth is active. There are a number of products available for controlling broad leaf weeds in established turf.

These chemicals are best used when the weeds are actively growing, usually between April-October.

  • Tritox (Contains 178g/L (16.2%w/w) MCPA 54.g/L(4.9%w/w) mecoprop-p and 15g/L (1.4%w/w) dicamba and potassium salts. Scotts.
  • Intrepid 2. (Contains 20.8g/L dicamba,166g/L dichlorprop-p ans 166.5g/L MCPA). Scotts.
  • Greenor. (Contains: 40g/L fluroxypyr, 20g/L clopyralid and 200g/L MCPA). Rigby Taylor.
  • Bastion T. (Contains: 72g/L fluroxypyr and 300g/L mecoprop-p ). Rigby Taylor.
  • Dormone (Contains 465g/L2,4-D(38.1%w/w) as the diethanolamine salt). A herbicide which can be used near water. Bayer Environmental Science.
  • Supertox 30 (Contains 95g/L (8.8%w/w) mecoprop-p and 93.5g/L(8.7%w/w) as the diethanolamine salts). Bayer Environmental Science.

These herbicides are usually applied as a liquid using watering cans, knapsack sprayers and vehicle mounted sprayers.

Ensure you follow manufacturer's directions, health & safety and product data sheets, and comply with COSHH regulations, when using these chemicals.

Herbicides are an effective tool where high quality turf is desired. However, they must be applied with care and accuracy and in the context of a good overall turf management program. Before using any herbicide, carefully review the label for conditions of use including rates, methods of application, and precautions. Never use an herbicide in any manner contrary to its label and be sure that the herbicide will not injure the turfgrass species

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