Seminole Crop E News

Agricultural News for Farmers and Agribusiness in SW Georgia

Rattlesnake Weed

Posted by romeethredge on December 12, 2013

Florida betony, also called rattlesnake weed is a problem weed in both turfgrasses and ornamentals. We are not 100 percent certain of the origin of this plant.

Florida betony is a “winter” perennial and,  has a square stem with opposite leaves. Flowers are usually pink. It has the unique characteristic of producing tubers that look like the rattles (buttons) of a rattlesnake, hence the name “rattlesnake weed” .

                  Betony1  Flower and foliage of Florida betony.

betony2

 Tubers of Florida betony that look like the rattle of a rattlesnake, hence the name “rattlesnake weed.”

The tubers are edible and some people relish their crisp, succulent flavor — who knows, maybe one day we will be figuring out how to grow Florida betony instead of killing it! Florida betony actively grows in the mid- to late fall and spring months. During the extreme heat of the summer months, growth of Florida betony slows and the plant may become dormant.

Atrazine is recommended for use on centipedegrass, St. Augustinegrass, zoysiagrass and dormant bermudagrass. Spot treatments of glyphosate (Roundup, others) also can be used to control Florida betony. The turfgrass will be severely injured or killed, however, if glyphosate contacts green turfgrass leaves.

The preferred time to treat Florida betony with sprayable formulations of atrazine is mid- to late October during the fall growth flush. An additional atrazine application in mid- to late February should coincide with the spring growth flush on warm season turfgrasses. Do not apply fertilizer-based atrazine products such as Scotts Bonus S to centipedegrass during late fall or late winter as applications of fertilizer to centipedegrass can predispose this warm-season turfgrass to winter injury.

Few herbicides are available to control Florida betony in ornamentals. Several cultural practices, however, can provide good control of Florida betony in landscape situations. Coarse textured mulches such as pine straw or pine bark applied to a depth of 2 to 4 inches, will smother the plant and help limit the establishment of Florida betony. Landscape fabrics also may be used under various types of mulches and will help prevent Florida betony emergence. Other non-chemical control options include hand-pulling and hoeing. Since this weed reproduces from underground tubers, you must completely remove all tubers when hand-weeding.

In ornamentals, dichlobenil (sold under the trade name Casoron®) provides excellent control of Florida betony in most established woody ornamentals. Dichlobenil is labeled for use in a wide variety of woody shrubs and trees, roses and English ivy, but it is not recommended for use in either annual or perennial flowers. Dichlobenil is a volatile herbicide that readily escapes as a gas under high air and soil temperatures. The ideal time to apply dichlobenil to control Florida betony is from early November through mid-February. Cool temperatures at this time of year will help prevent dichlobenil loss from the soil and will improve Florida betony control.

Products containing the active ingredient glyphosate (i.e., Roundup®, numerous other brand names), can be used to control this plant if applied as a post-directed application (spray or applied directly to Florida betony plants without contacting desirable plants). Also consider using glyphosate if you are going to establish a new ornamental planting in an area containing Florida betony. For best control, apply at the time of Florida betony flowering. Glyphosate can cause severe injury if the spray mist contacts either the green bark or foliage of ornamentals. Avoid applying glyphosate near ornamentals on windy days.

Most of this information comes from a UGA publication that can be accessed here, http://www.caes.uga.edu/publications/pubDetail.cfm?pk_id=7648

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