Florida snow – pretty or pesky?
W hat is that white weed-flower that blankets your lawn like snow during the cool season? That’s Florida pusley, also known as Florida snow or Mexican clover.
Depending on whom you ask, it is either considered pretty, with its dainty flowers, or pesky, a troublesome weed in many Florida lawns.
Blowing in the Wind?
Part of what makes Florida pusley so persistent, is the same feature many find attractive—its proliferation of flowers. These flowers, however, very quickly produce seeds; and, in a matter of just a few weeks, what was once only a small patch of delicate flowers in your lawn has taken over half the yard!
One interesting note about Florida pusley (Richardia scabra) is that there are two other closely related species. One has larger blooms which can be pink, blue, or violet, and is R. grandiflora, aka, largeflower pusley. The other, R. brasiliensis, has thicker roots. Both species reproduce by both seeds and stem/root sections.
Regardless of the species, however, weed control for Richardia requires some amount of patience and persistence. Control recommendations include:
- frequent mowing to interrupt the life cycle and prevent flowering and seed-set;
- use of pre-emergent herbicides to inhibit seed germination; and
- careful selection of broadleaf post-emergent herbicides.
Prevention is always better than a cure. Following research-based turf management practices helps lawns to maintain vigorous growth which deters weed infestations.
This is an article on the common lawn weed called Florida Snow aka Florida Pusley.
‘Tis the season: ‘Florida snow’ popping up on the Treasure Coast
Back for 2018. The invasive flower called largeflower pusley, but nicknamed “Florida Snow” growing along the shoulder of Murrell Road in Viera. (Photo: TIM SHORTT/ FLORIDA TODAY)
When summer’s brutal heat begins to wane, pumpkin spice everything shows up in stores and locals find themselves looking longingly at photos of colorful leaves– and an oh-so-Florida phenomenon makes an appearance. Snow!
“Florida snow” is actually a perennial wildflower, or if you ask many frustrated lawn enthusiasts, a weed. Its tightly-grouped and low-lying white and pinkish or pale lilac flowers resemble a dusting of snow over the grass, hence the nickname.
Here are a few things to know about “snow”:
1. It has several names
What Floridians call “snow” is also called largeflower pusley, Florida pusley and Mexican clover, though it is neither a clover nor native to Mexico. Scientifically, it’s called Richardia grandiflora. If you want to be extra scientific, it’s a member of the family Rubiaceae, which is comprised of 15 different species of flowering plants.
2. It’s not native to Florida
Pusley is native to Brazil and other parts of South America. In the U.S., it’s only seen in Florida, particularly in central and south Florida. Currently, 26 counties in the southern half of Florida expect an annual “snowfall,” but that number could grow. The Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council lists pusley among the state’s most invasive species.
3. It’s very stubborn
If you don’t want that snow-dusted look in your lawn, you’re in for a struggle. Because pusley is a low-lying ground cover, it’s nearly impossible to mow. It’s more drought-resistant than grass and can survive sub-freezing temperatures.
The weed is also resistant to most herbicides and spreads rapidly. University of Florida research found that Atrazine can control pusley in St. Augustine grass, but several other herbicides tested had no long-lasting effect.
Because the flowers produce seeds quickly, a small patch of pusley can take over a whole yard in a shockingly short time.
4. It has some environmental benefits
As a hardy plant that happily intermingles with grass and survives drought and cold, pusley is helpful for controlling soil erosion. The flowers also provide nectar for butterflies and bees, both important pollinators.
5. The best fix involves prevention a lot of elbow grease
The safest and most effective way to get rid of pusley is to pull it by hand. Since the weed spreads from a single stem and root system, it’s relatively easy to pull. Still, the idea of pulling a yard full of snow by hand can be daunting.
If you opt for the herbicide route, make sure you know what you’re doing. Or better yet, call a landscaper or turf management company.
Mowing over pusley often makes the problem worse, as the mower blades can scatter seeds and spread the weed.
The best way to avoid a pusley invasion in your lawn is to keep your grass healthy. Thick and well-established turf inhibits the growth of weeds, including pusley. Pre-emergence herbicides can also provide weed control for several weeks by slowing or stopping the germination of seeds.
"Florida snow" is actually a perennial wildflower, or if you ask many frustrated lawn enthusiasts, a weed.