Bill Starr: Snow drifts in South Georgia?

Published 1:43 pm Friday, May 27, 2016

We have had some strange weather this year; even though we have warmed up considerably, I am still getting numerous calls about lawns turning white this time of year.
I know what you are thinking: snow in Georgia this time of year? Well the white lawn you may have been experiencing is not snow. The “cottony” appearance of some lawns is due to the presence of a weed named facelis (Facelis retusua). Facelis also called annual tramp weed is a winter annual member of the Aster family (I also heard some more colorful names for this weed). This weed, if you haven’t already figured out, reproduces by wind-blown seed, and lots of them. This weed can reach heights of 4 to 6 inches; the upper leaf surface is green, while the lower leaf surface is densely gray due to the presence of leaf hairs. Flowers for this plant are inconspicuous; however, the seeds (the snow) have soft white bristle-like hair. With severe infestations the lawn becomes white when seeds are being released from the plant.
Facelis actually germinates in the fall and late winter months,  produces seed in late April to June and then dies. Usually the weed itself is not noticed until it starts to produce seed. May is not the preferred time to control facelis as the weed is in the process of dying. However, if you notice this weed early next winter before it starts to seed, herbicides that contain 2,4-D, Dicamba, and MCPP or Atrazine should control facelis. Also since this weed is generally found on droughty, low-fertility sites, efforts should be made to improve turf grass density through liming, fertilization and irrigation.
So what should you do now if your yard is covered with “snow”? Well, actually, just sit back and enjoy a little snow in May. Who says that South Georgia never gets snow? And by the way, has anybody seen my skis?

Bill Starr is Sumter County Extension coordinator/ANR agent, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service. Contact him at 220-924-4476.