Saturday, September 21, 2013

Kill Heron’s Bill and Cheat Grass



          Heron’s Bill has been blooming for months, and is ripening its seed, poking its heron bills at the sky.  It has ¼-3/8 inch pink-purple flowers, filigree leaves, and seed pods up to 3 inches long. 
Heron's bill on city property.  Two years ago, this was one plant, next to the sign, then a few; and now...
  
It can grow up to 18 inches high and twice as wide, creating a fire hazard as it dries out.  But its seeds are its worst problem.  As they dry out, they pop off the plant, twisting up into a corkscrew shape except for the sticker seed at one end, and a straight tail at the other.  When it gets wet, it unwinds, and the tail holds it still while the seed screws itself into the ground—or into your pet’s skin, ear, or eye.

Mowed heron's bill, seeds growing beneath the mower blades, city property.


It has a tap root, but it can easily be pulled from damp soil by grabbing the entire plant at the crown.  In dry soil, it can be cut off its tap root below the crown with pruning scissors when seeded and the root will die, being an annual gone to seed.
 
 A lone heron's bill, growing in Red Death on city property

Cheat grass has just begun to bloom, showing itself as it stretches out 2-3 feet high.  It also has sticker seeds when ripe, merely sharp enough to penetrate clothing, particularly socks, and your pet’s fur, of course.  It is a major source of fire danger in this area, along with other dry, annual weeds.
Cheat, city property on Spruce at Brownell, and neighbor's road side
Fortunately, this annual grass, like most other annual weeds, is easy to pull in bloom, even in dry soil; the roots shrink greatly as the seed stalk grows.
A single cheat plant in old nugget bark on weed barrier cloth, City property on Brownell.

But few grasses are easy to pull if one cuts them as or before they bloom, but before they ripen seed.  Annuals grow more root and seed stalks every time they are cut, until they ripen seed below cutting height.  The same goes for heron’s bill and most other annual broadleaf weeds.  Weed control is seed control.  Cutting is not seed control unless you scalp the ground, cutting at or below the crown.
This especially applies to fox tails, another fire hazard sticker; they grow full-sized heads even at two inches tall in a lawn, and their seeds are large and totally annoying as they drop off and stick in stuff.  The only way to get rid of them is to pull the plants before the heads fall apart.



Dock is also flowering and can be pulled.  It is a broadleaf weed that puts up a stalk of green incomplete flowers 3-5 feet tall; its leaves are lanceolate with wavy edges.  Before it flowers, it is impossible to pull it without sinking a shovel beside it; the leaves just break off the crown, and they keep growing back every time you tear them off the large root.  But once its flowers are showing, the stalk is strongly attached to the root, and it pulls out.