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PITCHCARE CLASSIFIEDS PEARLWORT (Sagina procumbens)


The precious weed


Pearlwort is a perennial mat-forming plant with narrow leaves and tiny white flowers. It can be problematic when allowed to establish in fine turf areas, especially on links courses


Allowed to establish, Pearlwort can form large patches


Case study


Graeme Taylor, Course Manager - New & Jubilee Courses, St Andrews Links Trust


Managing fine turf is a constant battle with nature. From poor weather to fungal diseases, weeds, disorders and compaction - we face these challenges head on to try and produce the best surfaces possible.


One such challenge, particularly prevalent to links turf, is the perennial weed; pearlwort (sagina procumbens).


We find this weed all over the golf course, but is most problematic when established on a putting surface. Looking at the picture you may ask why? It certainly looks like an area of very dense, green grass, so what’s the problem?


Firstly, at certain periods of the year it can produce tiny, white, pearl-shaped flowers (hence the ‘precious weed’ nickname) at which time the colour of the weed will change. This results visually in a very uneven greens surface. The firmness of the green is also affected due to the patch of pearlwort being softer than the fine turf. If left uncontrolled, it can quickly establish into large patches.


Pearlwort can become a troublesome weed when allowed to spread and establish in turf. This weed can populate most soil conditions very quickly by seed.


Pearlwort is a good indicator of moist/wet conditions and is often mistaken for moss in lawns. Swards that are maintained at low mowing heights below 6mm (golf and bowling greens) are susceptible to invasion from this weed.


Pearlwort easily develops rooting structures from its stem nodes, producing fine roots that can invade most soil conditions.


Flowers are white, small and inconspicuous and flower from April to September. They are generally found on long stems near the tips of the branches.


Leaves are very narrow and thin, having quite a thick cuticle, which enables Pearlwort to be resistant to weed control. The upper leaf surface is mostly smooth. Leaves are opposite and may appear whorled around the stem.


Pearlwort produces an incredible number of small seeds which can be spread by mowing and foot traffic. It also spreads as foliage grows across the soil surface, re-rooting at the internodes. Seedlings emerge from soil with foliage that looks identical to mature plants.


Pearlwort is commonly found in coastal areas and in areas of moist, frequently irrigated turf. It can form prostrate to mounding clumps 5cm in height and has been sold as ground covering plant material for landscaping. PearlwortHead.jpg


146 PC August/September 2019


Keep the sward dense and healthy to prevent Pearlwort establishing. It is best to eradicate it as quickly as you can, as this weed can prove difficult to control once established. Appropriate cultural management of the turf, aeration, feeding and regular mowing will ensure that the sward remains dense, reducing the opportunity of bare soil becoming a seed bed.


Spray with a systemic weed control that is absorbed through the leaves of the plant, the active ingredient makes its way through the cells of the plant down to the root. It kills these first and then the foliage starts to die off. Pearlwort is a persistent weed and may need further applications of weed control, often repeat spraying after 6-8 weeks. Apply selective broadleaf herbicides when plant growth is active.


There are a number of products available for controlling broad leaf weeds in established turf. These herbicides are best used when the weeds are actively growing, usually between April- October:


There are a number of Plant Protection Products available for application within the UK, which are authorised for the control of broadleaved weeds in turf.


These herbicides are usually applied as a liquid using watering cans, knapsack sprayers and vehicle mounted sprayers.


A range of selective herbicides are available in the Pitchcare Shop. For further information, speak to one of our technical advisors on 01902 440250


Control of this weed is tricky. It tolerates close mowing and can handle vertical mowing and scarification. One method is to keep the turf vigorously growing with increased nutrient applications. This allows the turf to out-compete the weed. We can’t overfeed, however, as this would result in slower greens with higher organic matter and the long term ingress of the weed grass; poa annua.


Chemical control is possible with a selective herbicide containing the chemicals dicamba, mecoprop-p and MCPA. When applied, this product slowly kills the weed plant and leaves the fine turf untouched, apart from a slight loss of colour.


As the weed slowly dies, grass will recolonise the patches. This process can be helped along by first vertically mowing the area. This rips out the dying weed leaves and creates space for the new grass to grow. This can then be followed by an overseed with fine grass species such as festuca or agrostis (fescue or bent) and finally a light feed with a liquid fertiliser.


Pearlwort dying off after herbicide application


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