By: Jennifer Davit
As summer begins to wind down, many of us are tired and worn down from taking care of our gardens and landscapes over the summer. As the temperatures cool, we tend to slow down, but it’s essential that new seed installations continue to be managed. This is the time of the year when many of the warm season weeds and undesirables are starting to go to seed. One especially persistent warm season weed here in Northeast Ohio is horse nettle. It is interesting to note that this plant is native to most of the United States. It is a native though that will dominate disturbed areas though and thus not a desirable plant when trying to establish a diverse prairie habitat. The yellow fruits are about 1/2" inch and can be difficult to spot under the plants large thorny leaves. Each fruit though can contain 120 number of seeds and one plant can produce hundreds of fruits- yielding up to 5000 seeds from one plant alone! The seeds also remain viable in the soil for up to 10 years! The abundance and persistence of the seed makes it crucial that seeds are not allowed to ripen and disperse where you are trying to establish a native seeding.
The management strategy depends on multiple factors, including size of seeding area, presence of desirable seedlings and access to mowers and other resources. In a large site where we have detected this species, we are using several tools to control this weedy pest. Right now we are continuing to mow and remove existing flowers and fruits so they do not mature. We will keep these plants mowed short, but be careful not to mow too low so that the native seedlings are damaged. The horse nettle will likely remain above ground after the native seedlings go dormant. Once those native seedlings die back, we will use a targeted and selective herbicide spray to kill the horse nettle, as the roots are perennial and systemic herbicide is needed for long term control. If you are finding persistent weeds in your seeding, be sure to identify the species and learn about their reproductive process before you take action. The action taken is specific to the site and the desired objectives, so what might be advised in one situation is not necessarily a procedure we would recommend in all situations. If you have any questions about how to manage your seeding, we are always here to help you in the process.