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Identification of Broadleaf Weeds in Citrus1

Stephen H. Futch and David W. Hall 2

Identification of broadleaf weeds can be aided by looking for specific characteristics of the plant. These specific characteristics can include shape of leaves and stems and plant size, as well as the type and color of flowers.

When a broadleaf plant emerges from seed, the seedling will have two leaves. These leaves are generally broad with net-like veins. Additionally, as the broadleaf plant grows, it usually has a central taproot and a fairly coarse root system.

Broadleaf plants can be classified by their life cycle: annual, biennial, or perennial. Annual plants have a one-year life cycle, growing from seed, maturing and producing seed for the next generation of plants in one year or less. Annuals can be further divided into summer (sprout in spring, grow, mature and produce seed and die before winter) or winter (sprout in the fall, grow, mature, produce seed and die before summer) annuals. Biennials have a two-year life cycle, growing from seed and developing a heavy root system the first year followed by seed production in the second year and then plant death. Perennials live more than two years with seed production occurring as early as the first year.

Common Beggar's-Tick (Spanish Needle) Bidens alba

Leaves: Opposite, divided, 2 to 10 cm long and 1 to 3.5 cm wide. Leaf edges are toothed with the underside of leaves being hairy.

Stems: Erect or bending at the base, may root at lower nodes.

Flowers: Daisy-like, yellow center with white petal-like rays.

Seeds: Four-angled and spindle-shaped with 2 sharp-pointed projections at the top.

Life cycle: Annual or short-lived perennial.

Height: Up to 5 feet tall.

Figure 1. Common beggar's-tick (spanish needle).
Figure 1.  Common beggar's-tick (spanish needle).

Lamb's-Quarters Chenopodium album

Leaves: Alternate, simple, variable in shape and size, blades are ovate to lanceolate and may appear 3-lobed, fleshy, whitish.

Stems: Branched, angular or ridged, white, green or purplish.

Flowers: Tiny, without petals, gray to green in color and arranged in spike-like clusters in the leaf axils at the ends of the branches and stems.

Seeds: 1.2 to 1.6 mm in diameter, disc shaped, glossy black, brown or brownish-green in color.

Life cycle: Winter annual

Height: Up to 6 feet or more tall.

Figure 2. Lamb's-quarters.
Figure 2.  Lamb's-quarters.
Credit: Photo courtesy of Megh Singh.

Mexican-Tea (Jerusalem-Oak) Chenopodium ambrosioides

Leaves: Alternate, oblong to ovate or lanceolate in shape often lobed or toothed, numerous small orange glands are located on the underside of the leaves; blades are strong-scented with a pungent odor.

Stems: Branched, smooth to minutely hairy and grooved.

Flowers: Green and found in spike-like clusters in branched arrangements.

Seeds: Black, 0.6 to 0.8 mm in diameter.

Life cycle: Annual or short-lived perennial

Height: Up to 3 feet tall or more.

Figure 3. Mexican-tea (Jerusalem-oak).
Figure 3.  Mexican-tea (Jerusalem-oak).

Ragweed Ambrosia artemisiifolia

Leaves: Lower leaves are opposite, upper leaves alternate; stalked, smooth and deeply divided into several toothed or lobed portions. Plant has a unique odor.

Stems: Purplish, erect, branching, rough and hairy.

Flowers: Tiny, greenish, in tiny heads, borne at leaf base and along upper forked branches. Pollen is a major source for hayfever in sensitive people.

Seeds: Brown, 3-3.5 mm long.

Life cycle: Summer annual

Height: Up to 6 feet tall.

Figure 4. Ragweed.
Figure 4.  Ragweed.

Wild Geranium (Carolina Geranium) Geranium carolinianum

Leaves: Deeply divided into 5 to 7 divisions, lobed and up to 7 cm wide; normally in a basal rosette and alternate, opposite at the top of the stem, on petioles of various lengths and hairy.

Stems: Multi-branched, semi-erect to ascending, greenish-pink to red and hairy.

Flowers: Flowers are in pairs in compact clusters and pale pink to purple in color.

Seeds: 2 mm long, oblong in shape and enclosed in a long, skinny (narrow) 5-lobed capsule.

Life cycle: Winter annual.

Height: Up to 1.5 feet tall forming a circular growth pattern from the center of the plant.

Figure 5. Wild heranium (Carolina heranium).
Figure 5.  Wild heranium (Carolina heranium).

Florida Pusley Richardia scabra

Leaves: Opposite, ovate to elliptic-lanceolate- shaped, somewhat thickened and covered with fine hairs. Leaves are up to 6.5 cm long and 2.5 cm wide.

Stems: Multi-branched, hairy, from a taproot and usually erect.

Flowers: White tubular flowers are formed in clusters at the end of branches.

Seeds: Fruit separates into 4 ellipsoid (football-shaped) parts; part of the flowers remain attached to top; outer surface bumpy, inner surface grooved

Life cycle: Summer annual.

Height: Low growing to a height of less than 1 foot.

Comments: Distinguished from Brazil pusley by the lack of a thickened rootstock.

Figure 6. Florida pusley.
Figure 6.  Florida pusley.

Brazil Pusley Richardia brasiliensis

Leaves: Opposite, elliptic to ovate in shape, have a pointed to rounded tip and are covered with fine hairs. Leaves are up to 6.5 cm long and 2.4 cm wide.

Stems: Multi-branched, hairy, arising from a thickened knotty rootstock and rarely roots along the prostrate stems.

Flowers: White tubular flowers are formed in clusters of up to 20 flowers at the end of branches.

Seeds: Fruit separates into 4 ellipsoid (football-shaped) parts; part of flower remains attached to top; outer surface covered with short stiff bristles; inner surface grooved

Life cycle: Perennial

Height: Usually prostrate, low growing, to a height of less than 1 foot.

Comments: Distinguished from Florida pusley most easily by the thickened rootstock.

Figure 7. Brazil pusley.
Figure 7.  Brazil pusley.

Spreading Dayflower Commelina diffusa

Leaves: Pale to dark green, lance-shaped to slightly oval with parallel veins, sheathing stem at base.

Stems: Light green, usually spreading to prostrate with many branches, rooting at joints.

Flowers: Three light blue petals from a leafy boat-like structure.

Seeds: Capsule 3-parted, 5 seeded; seed 2-4 mm long, brown or somewhat reddish, pitted.

Life cycle: Annual or perennial from the persistent rooted joints.

Height: Spreading and less than 1 foot tall.

Figure 8. Spreading dayflower.
Figure 8.  Spreading dayflower.

Goatweed Scoparia dulcis

Leaves: Opposite with narrow toothed blades, from 1/3 to 1.5 inch long; dots on both sides.

Stems: Multiple branched erect stems may be smooth or with soft, fine hairs. Stems become woody rather quickly.

Flowers: Small, white, about 3 to 5 mm long and borne in the leaf axils.

Seeds: Yellowish-brown capsules contain numerous, extremely small, brown seeds.

Life cycle: Perennial

Height: From 1 to 2.5 feet.

Figure 9. Goatweed.
Figure 9.  Goatweed.

Green Pigweed (Slender Amaranth) Amaranthus viridus

Leaves: Alternate, long-stalked, dull green; somewhat oval.

Stems: Erect and frequently branched.

Flowers: Small and green on dense spikes.

Seeds: Very small, shiny black.

Life cycle: Summer annual

Height: Up to 2 feet tall.

Figure 10. Green pigweed (slender amaranth).
Figure 10.  Green pigweed (slender amaranth).

Spiny Amaranth (Pigweed) Amaranthus spinosus

Leaves: Alternate, ovate, broadest at base, long-stalked.

Stems: Smooth, multiple branched, with stiff spines located in branch axils.

Flowers: Lack petals, small, green in slender spikes.

Seeds: Very small, black.

Life cycle: Annual

Height: Up to 3 feet tall.

Figure 11. Spiny amaranth (pigweed).
Figure 11.  Spiny amaranth (pigweed).

Teaweed (Arrowleaf Sida) Sida rhombifolia

Leaves: Alternate, broadly lance-shaped, white hairy underneath, leaf margin toothed.

Stems: Erect, smooth, seldom to much branched.

Flowers: Solitary, yellow to yellow-orange, long-stalked in the leaf axil on upper branches.

Seeds: Capsule 5-8 mm wide, 8-12 parted, each part with 2 projections; seeds about 2-3 mm long, smooth, dark brown.

Life cycle: Annual or perennial

Height: Up to 4 feet tall, with a deep, long, taproot.

Figure 12. Teaweed (arrowleaf sida).
Figure 12.  Teaweed (arrowleaf sida).

Hairy Indigo Indigofera hirsuta

Leaves: Hairy leaves are alternate, divided into 5 to 9 leaflets, the terminal leaf being the largest. Leaflets are rounded, entire leaf 3 to 6 inches long.

Stems: Stems are multi-branched and hairy.

Flowers: Numerous flowers are borne on short stalks, 4 to 8 inches in length with orange-red flowers.

Seeds: A hairy legume pod, approximately 3/4 inch long containing 6 to 8 four-sided seeds.

Life cycle: Annual

Height: Up to 4 feet, roots fibrous.

Figure 13. Hairy indigo.
Figure 13.  Hairy indigo.

Long-Fruited Primrose-Willow Ludwigia octovalvis

Leaves: Alternate, narrowly to broadly lance-shaped, tapers to a sharp point, smooth to hairy, 1.5 to 4 inches long.

Stems: Branched, lower stems often woody, upper stems herbaceous.

Flowers: 4 yellow petals, 1 inch in diameter, in the upper leaf axils.

Seeds: Capsule up to 2 inches long, cylindrical, 4-sided, several ribbed, seeds rounded about ½ m long, brown, shiny.

Life cycle: Annual or perennial

Height: Up to 6 feet, in moist to wet areas of fields or ditches.

Figure 14. Long-fruited primrose-willow.
Figure 14.  Long-fruited primrose-willow.

Cutleaf Evening Primrose Oenothera laciniata

Leaves: Alternate, elliptic to lance-shaped with irregularly notched or lobed margins.

Stems: Low-growing, often prostrate, branching near the base and hairy.

Flowers: Yellow tubular flowers which fade to red-pink, in leaf axils.

Seeds: Seed capsule is cylindric, 4-ribbed and hairy; seeds just over 1 m long, angled, pitted.

Life cycle: Biennial.

Height: Low growing, usually spreading, less than 1 foot tall.

Figure 15. Cutleaf evening primrose.
Figure 15.  Cutleaf evening primrose.

Broadleaf Plant Leaf Characteristics

Useful characteristics to identify broadleaf weeds include the leaf type, leaf margin, leaf shape, leaf attachment and leaf arrangement (Fig. 16).

Figure 16. Broadleaf plant leaf characteristics.
Figure 16.  Broadleaf plant leaf characteristics.
Credit: T.R. Murphy, D.L. Colvin, R. Dickens, J.W. Everest and D. Hall (eds.). 2002. Weeds of Southern Turfgrasses. Univ. of Fla. Coop. Ext. Svc. SP 79. Gainesville.


1. This document is HS-896, one of a series of the Horticultural Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 2002. Revised March 2009. Reviewed January 2020. Visit the EDIS website at for the currently supported version of this publication.
2. Stephen H. Futch, Extension agent IV, Horticultural Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center; and David W. Hall, D. W. Hall Consultant, Inc.; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.