Controlling the Malevolent Mulberry Weed

Today, as in everyday, I spend time weeding. My most insidious adversary is Mulberry weed (Fatoua villosa), also referred to as Hairy crabweed, and at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens as “Damn Weed,” and righteously so, as I will explain.

Mulberry weed (Fatoua villosa), also referred to as Hairy crabweed.

Mulberry weed (Fatoua villosa), also referred to
as Hairy crabweed.

This annual weed was introduced from Asia many years ago, and has been steadily colonizing gardens ever since. Able to grow in sun or shade, she produces legions of seeds from the time of immature 2″ juveniles, until the old matron expires at first frost at more than 2′ tall.  She sends forth her devil spawn by exploding her seed capsules, resulting in invaders three feet out from the original plant. In Forest Park (and probably in your neighborhood, as well), our gardens, our lawns, our alleys, our parks are overrun with Mulberry weed. I am seeing this weed in natural areas as well.

What’s a gardener to do? Remove this weed every time you find it in your garden. NEVER compost Mulberry weed, never toss it out onto the lawn or over the fence. It belongs in the garbage can. Period. No discussion.

Close-up of Mulberry weed.

Close-up of Mulberry weed.

Learn to pull weeds up by their roots. If you leave the roots of Mulberry weed, you just make her mad, and she will respond by growing and SEEDING very close to the ground. Mulberry weed in mown turf is very prolific.

  • Assume that all planting media under your purchased plants contains seed of Mulberry weed.
  • Monitor your new introductions for germinating seedlings of Mulberry weed, and remove them promptly.

Once you find this weed in your garden, assume that you will ALWAYS have to deal with Mulberry weed. There is no cure, only managed care. So:

  • Learn to use pre-emergent herbicides.
  • Learn the value of mulch in your garden.
  • Learn how to weed your garden effectively (get those roots, get those shorties, garbage only!).

And, if I sound too hawkish,  remember we call her “Damn Weed” for a good reason.

Mike Rushing

Mike and Paula Rushing have been gardening in St. Clair county since 1990, and In Forest Park since 2007. A Jefferson County Master Gardener and course instructor at Master Gardening classes, Mike also volunteers weekly at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

2 thoughts on “Controlling the Malevolent Mulberry Weed

    • Neither Mike nor I have ever seen, or had a mugwort problem in our gardens. After reading a research paper on controlling it, I am glad we do not have your problem. The research said the most effective means is probably covering the area with black plastic, and let it remain covered over a growing season. That seems a tough thing to do in a garden. I must say that the research said Roundup will knock it back, and I would guess over a period of years that might control it – but not kill it. Good luck, and I am sorry for your problem.

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