Weed Seed Identification

Early Plants Early plants can be typically be identified according to their cotyledon, first true leaves, and/or the stem. Mature Plants Non-flowering/Basal rosette Flowering plants How can you identify seedlings without mistaking them for weeds? Even for the most seasoned gardeners, this can sometimes be tricky. Learning to identify veggie seedlings is vital for your garden. Click here for some tips and tricks that can help.

Early Plants

Early plants can be typically be identified according to their cotyledon, first true leaves, and/or the stem.

Mature Plants

Non-flowering/Basal rosette

Flowering plants


Uva R H, Neal J C, DiTomaso J M. 1997. Weeds of the Northeast. Book published by Cornell University, Ithaca NY. The go-to for weed ID in the Northeast; look for a new edition sometime in 2019.

Cornell University’s Turfgrass and Landscape Weed ID app. Identification and control options for weeds common to turf, agriculture, and gardens in New York; uses a very simple decision tree to identify your weed.

Spreading Dogbane

Spreading dogbane in hay field. Photo by Josh Putman of Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Spreading dogbane. Photo by Josh Putman of Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Early July, 2020

Josh Putman is Cornell Cooperative Extension’s SWNY Dairy, Livestock & Field Crops representative. He recently ran across this plant in a hay field that had not been worked for a few years. Spreading dogbane, Apocynum androsaemifolium, is in the same family as milkweeds and swallowworts, and the same genus as hemp dogbane. This perennial plant is found in open, dry areas and in disturbed habitats throughout New York and most of the US and Canada.

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Leaves: Leaves are oval, 4-6cm (around two inches long), with smooth edges and pinnate veination. They are arranged opposite each other on the branch.

Mature Plant: 0.6m (2 feet) tall, although some sources say 2-5′, with branching reddish stems. Flowers are found at the ends of branches.

Flowers/Fruit: Flowers are bell-shaped with 5 petals that are fused to form the bell and then curl outwards. Flowers can be white as were seen in western NY, but can also be pink or white with pink striping. Fruit are a long, narrow pod up to 11cm (over 4 inches) long; each flower produces two seed pods. Inside the pods are many small seeds with fluffy tufts, much like milkweed or swallowwort seeds.

Toxicity: Dogbanes are reported to be toxic to livestock, containing a compound that interferes with heart function. This toxicity persists when the plant is dried as well as when fresh. There is no specific information on the toxicity of this species to livestock.

Management: Management information for this species in agricultural settings is sparse; most resources discussed it in the context of a native wildflower/shrub. In blueberry fields, nicosulfuron mixed with surfactant suppressed spreading dogbane (>60%), and dicamba spot sprays were over 80% effective. Glyphosate spot sprays worked better than hand pulling, and wiping with glyphosate was also effective (Wu and Boyd, 2012). In an early experiment from the 1940s, dogbane was partially susceptible to 2,4 D (Egler 1947). In a forest setting, aerial application of glyphosate did not control spreading dogbane (Pitt et al 2000).


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University of Maryland Extension Toxic Plant Profile: Milkweed and Dogbane: https://extension.umd.edu/learn/toxic-plant-profile-milkweed-and-dogbane

Ohio State University Perennial and Biennial Weed Guide: Hemp Dogbane. https://www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/weedguide/single_weed.php?id=40

Lin Wu and Nathan S. Boyd. 2012. Management of Spreading Dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium) in Wild Blueberry Fields. Weed Technology 26(4)777-782.

Frank E. Egler. 1947. 2,4-D Effects in Connecticut Vegetation, Ecology 29(3)382-386.

Frank E. Egler. 1949. Herbicide Effects in Connecticut Vegetation, Ecology 30( 2) 113-270.

Sprout Identification Guide: How To Tell Seedlings From Weeds

How can you identify seedlings and not mistake them for weeds? This is tricky, even for the most seasoned gardeners. If you don’t know the difference between a weed and a radish sprout, you could destroy your vegetable bed before you have a chance at a harvest. You can learn to identify veggie seedlings, but there are some other tricks that can help as well.

Importance of Sprout Identification

When planning a vegetable bed, you may decide to start from seeds directly in the garden. There are benefits to this, and it eliminates the step of moving transplants from indoors. One issue comes up though – how can you identify seedlings from little veggie sprouts?

Make the wrong identification and you’ll pluck what you think is a weed only to find you pulled out your vegetable seedlings. When plants are at the seedling stage, they look quite different from their mature stage. To avoid ruining your beds before you have barely started, you need to get good at identifying seedlings.

Is it a Seedling or a Weed?

Knowing how to tell seedlings from weeds is a great skill to have as a gardener. You’ll find plenty of resources online to help you make this identification. These include pictures of vegetable seedlings as well as those of common weeds, allowing you to simply check what you have and only pull weed seedlings. Until you get to know your seedlings better, here are some tricks and tips that will help make the task easier:

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Sow your seeds in a very straight row and use markers at the beginning and end of the row so you know where seedlings should be when they start to grow.