Weeds With Black Seed Pods

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Have you found Black Medic in your lawn? Learn more about how to identify this weed, what conditions cause it and the best ways to remove and prevent it in the future. Hi all! I’m a newbie gardener who has inherited a jungle of a garden in my recent house move. Do you have prostrate weeds with small yellow, clover-like flowers in your garden beds or lawn? This leguminous plant from Europe and temperate Asia, commonly called black medic, is also called yellow trefoil, black clover and hop medic. Read more about this annual weed and how to deal with it in this article…

Black Medic

Black Medic, also known as Medicago lupulina or Yellow Trefoil, is a Summer annual weed. This means that it germinates sometime in the late Spring, grows well during the heat of Summer, then dies off with the cold weather. Black Medic is sometimes referred to as Yellow Clover because it looks like Clover with teardrop-shaped leaves, but has a yellow flower. The seed pods of Black Medic are also unique. They turn black when they’re ready to drop. If you can remove the Black Medic before this happens, it will help eradicate the plant, as the seeds are its only way of reproducing and they can stay viable for years and throughout Winter.

What Causes Black Medic?

It’s important to understand the conditions needed for Black Medic to thrive. A little Black Medic is normal. It will fill in the bare areas during the heat of Summer. A lot of Black Medic however, typically indicates that your lawn is being mowed too short in the Spring and Summer, your grass types are not strong or healthy enough to compete with the weed or your soil is compacted. If you notice the Black Medic growing by the roadside or next to a sidewalk, this is a sign that your soil quality is compromised due to foot traffic and compaction is the underlying problem.

How To Get Rid Of Black Medic?

Since Black Medic has a short lifespan, the bulk of your effort should go towards improving your lawn to prevent this weed from populating the following year. But there are a few things you can do to eliminate the weed right away.

  1. Pick the Black Medic. If you’re able to do this when the soil is wet, that would be ideal, as the roots will more easily and cleanly pull out of the ground. Black Medic grows out of a central location, so hand weeding can be very effective for removing the weed from large areas.
  2. Another option for elimination is to use a natural weed suppressant, such as Weed Beater Fe, which will be successful in killing the weed, however it also causes stress on the surrounding grasses, so use it sparingly.
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How To Prevent Black Medic?

Black Medic and other annual weeds will emerge where your lawn is not competing. It could be that you’re mowing your lawn too short, which is keeping your grasses from growing stronger than your weeds. It could also be that the grasses you have are too weak and old and just don’t fight that well. Another option is that you have dry, compacted soil. Luckily, there are several ways to address the issues that could be resulting in the Black Medic in your lawn.

Mowing Problems

  1. One of the worst things you can do for your lawn is remove too much of the grass blade in a single mowing. Removing more than 1/3 of the grass blade length in a single mowing will turn the grass brown, stop root growth, and invite in weeds. So set your mower blades high.
  2. Dull mower blades are another common mowing issue because they rip the grass, instead of cutting it. This leaves your lawn vulnerable to disease and weeds and also dehydrates the grass blades, causing them to turn brown. A hardware store should be able to sharpen your blades for you. Try to do this every 20 hours worth of cutting or at least once per season

Grass Problems

  1. If you have older poor grasses, a total Lawn Renovation might be the best choice.
  2. If you don’t want to go that far, simply Slice Seeding your current lawn should make a big difference.

Soil Problems

  1. Given that compacted soil is an ideal environment for Black Medic to grow, we recommend aerating your soil. You can do Core Aeration or Liquid Aeration. If you’d like a DIY solution for aeration, try Liquid Aerator on the areas where you’re noticing the problem.
  2. Lastly you can try our Organic Soil Builder application, which will add valuable organic matter and nutrients to your soil, serving as an organic fertilizer that will promote healthy and balanced grass growth.

Contact us to learn more or to get our opinion on what would be best for your specific situation.

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Weed with black pods

Hi all! I’m a newbie gardener who has inherited a jungle of a garden in my recent house move. Please could anyone help me identify a weed with black pods which has spread rapidly in my front garden? The pods are shooting seeds across the plant beds so it’s growing quickly. I am currently trying to get rid of it but worried that it will continue to come back as I cannot identify a root. Any help will be greatly appreciated!

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Lots of plants have black pods. Can you do a photo, or a fuller description, shape of leaves, colour of flowers, height, any else about it

I have photos but not sure how to upload it to this forum? It has long arching stalks that are tangled between all the other plants and small (elongated oval) leaves.

Black Medic, Medicago lupulina

A dense infestation of black medic.
Black medic, Medicago lupulina, is a common, prostrate broadleaf weed that is found throughout the US and Southern Canada. Native to Europe and temperate Asia, this member of the legume family (Fabaceae) has a few other common names including yellow trefoil, black clover and hop medic. Its is most often found as a weed in in dry, sunny areas in turf and waste ground, such as along roadsides and railroads, but it can be a nuisance in gardens and fields as well. Black medic can be an indication of low soil nitrogen in lawns as it outcompetes weak grass. Black medic and white clover grow in similar sites and are often found growing together in turf. Although it is classified as a cool season summer annual, in mild winters some plants may survive to act as a perennial. It spreads easily by seed and will form large colonies if left undisturbed.
A young black medic plant.
Black medic produces a long taproot that grows deeply into most soils. Several trailing, slightly hairy stems grow out from the base. The plant grows close to the ground, spreading up to 2 feet, but does not root along the stems. Like other members of the legume family, black medic has a symbiotic relationship with Rhizobium bacteria that form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby.
A black medic seedling (L) and trifoliate leaf (R).
The tiny seedlings resemble other clovers, with elongate, dark green cotyledons and rounded first leaf. All other leaves are trifoliate. The plant’s dark green leaves are similar to clover leaves, with three oval leaftlets. Each ½-¾” long leaflet has a small spur or tooth at the tip, toothed margins, and prominent, parallel veins. The center leaflet protrudes slightly on an extended petiole. This characteristic, along with the small projecting tip at the leaflet apex and toothed margins, help to distinguish black medic from other trifoliate legumes. The leaves are produced alternately along the stems. There is a pair of stipules (small, leaflike appendages) where each petiole joins the main stem.
Black medic flower.
The small, bright yellow flowers are produced from the leaf axils. Each inflorescence is a compact, rounded to slightly elongated cluster of 10-50 tiny flowers. Flowers can be found throughout the growing season, although individual plants stop blooming once seeds are set. Honeybees and other bees visit the flowers. The fruits that form after pollination look like small kidneys arranged in clusters. The coiled seed pods turn black when ripe. Each seed pod contains a single gold or brown seed.
In lawns, black medic can be managed through good turf management practices that encourage a dense stand of turf (high mowing, proper fertilization and irrigation), making it difficult for black medic to persist. As black medic often grows where some soil compaction has occurred, such as along curbs and sidewalks, reducing compaction will also help.
Black medic fruits (L) and ripe seed pods (R).
Black medic produces viable seed under normal mowing conditions which can persist in the soil for years, so it is important to control this weed before flowering and seed set. Individual plants can be hand pulled. Even larger plants are easy to pull out, particularly after rain has softened the soil. However, for large areas or dense infestations, a broadleaf herbicide can be applied to actively growing plants during the seedling to flower growth stage. Chemical controls are best applied from late spring through early summer and again from early through mid-autumn. Read and follow label directions carefully.
– Susan Mahr, University of Wisconsin – Madison

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