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Bill Starr: Johnny Appleseed’s evil cousin strikes again

I am sure most people are familiar with the famous historical character Johnny Appleseed. The legend of Johnny Appleseed, whose real name is John Chapman, is that he traveled all over with a leather bag filled with apple seeds that he would plant in open places and along roadways. Johnny Appleseed’s dream was that one day he could plant enough apple seeds that no one would go hungry. Legend has it that he dressed strangely wearing hand me down clothes, a pot on his head, and he rarely wore shoes, even when it was cold.
Now that you know a little about Johnny Appleseed, I want to tell you about his unknown third cousin that until now no one has ever talked about. There is a reason she was never mentioned in history: She never did like Johnny Appleseed and was always jealous of his kind nature. Her name was Krissy, and she was, as I have discovered, a not so nice person. You see she was jealous of her cousin Johnny Appleseed because as people began to know him they really liked his kind, giving nature and she became jealous because she wanted to be in the spotlight. So she devised a plan so people would remember who she was. So she started thinking about plants that she could spread and disrupt her cousin’s fame and to maybe cause him a little discomfort in his travels due to the fact that he most of the time went barefoot. W
ell I am going to share an unknown historical fact with you: Krissy quickly became known as “Krissy Khaki Weed.” Not familiar with khaki weed? Well, let me introduce you. Khaki weed originated in Central and South America; it is a low growing,  creeping perennial that spreads vegetatively and by seed. It is the seed of this plant that most people are familiar with, because if you have this weed you can kiss those barefoot days in the yard good-bye. Krissy Khaki Weed studied many hours to seek out the perfect weed to disrupt her cousin’s barefoot ways.
Khaki weed, alternanthera pungens, (pig weed family) forms carpets of sharp burrs that can injure people and animals. The creeping form of this plant allows it to out-compete desirable plants, like turf grass. Khaki weed can reproduce from seed, roots and by the stem nodes taking root. Seeds germinate after spring or summer rain, develop a deep taproot and stems form during summer. Roots form at the stem nodes and produce new plants that thicken the ground cover. This weed also has a deep tap root which makes it very drought resistant, which helps it to establish in your lawn even during dry periods. Before we started getting any rain this weed seemed to flourish in the hot and dry conditions we were experiencing.
This plant gets called a lot of names some of which aren’t too nice, but this weed commonly gets called sandbur or sandspur, which is a completely different weed. Khaki weed has leaves about dime- to quarter-size and the stems are covered in hairs. The seeds are like miniature balls of spikes that are extremely unpleasant if you step on them. These seeds are easily transferred by sticking to shoes or lawn mower tires. Krissy Khaki weed would be proud if she were around to see the efforts of her work. She must have passed through our area frequently considering how much khaki weed I see in our area.
So how do you get rid of these unwanted “khakis” in your lawn? There are several herbicides available that will control khaki weed. An application of a three-way herbicide combination which usually consists of 2, 4-D +MCPP+ Dicamba repeat applications of this herbicide spaced three weeks apart will do a good job to help control this weed. Another herbicide called Manor or Blade can also be used for control. The secret is to spray the weed before it has time to produce the seeds. If it ever produces seed it may take you more than one season to get rid of this pest. If you are not sure how to identify this weed please give me a call; I will be glad to introduce you if you are not already familiar. If you are familiar with khaki weed you can thank Krissy Khaki Weed and her grudge against her better known cousin.
Johnny Appleseed has another cousin that is unknown. His name was “Marty Money Tree.” If you have discovered Marty’s handiwork you might want to just keep that to yourself. Please be sure to call me if you want to erase Krissy Khaki Weed’s legacy of spreading this terrible weed.

Bill Starr is Sumter County Extension agent/coordinator, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service. Contact him at 229-924-4476.