The Weed of the Spring

May 10, 2019 9:07 AM
Blog Post

As everything greens up, we often receive photos of mystery plants for identification.  Typically, I get a wide range of species via email or text message.  This spring, more than any I can recall in recent history, I’ve received many photos of the same species:  purslane speedwell (Veronica peregrina).

purslane speedwell weed identification
Exhibit A: photo of purslane speedwell sent to me for identification on May 10.

Purslane speedwell is an annual weed native to North America that prefers moist, disturbed soil.  It shouldn’t shock me that it has apparently become more abundant in Iowa gardens, crop fields, and various waste areas after several successive seasons of cool, moist early springs.

This plant is often hairless, with leaves and a stem reminiscent of common purslane (thus, it’s common name purslane speedwell).  The leaves are usually long and thin and can either be entire (smooth) around the edges or have small teeth (serration).  While searching for this weed at our Field Extension Education Laboratory (FEEL) near campus, it blended in easily with all the field pennycress, shepherdspurse, and other winter annuals that are taller and bolting by now. 

purslane speedwell may have leaves with both entire and serrate leaf margins
Purslane speedwell may have leaves with both entire (smooth) and serrate (toothed) leaf margins.

One surefire way to identify this as a speedwell or Veronica species is to check for small, heart-shaped seedpods that will develop on the plant in the coming weeks.  Several other speedwell are fairly common to find this time of year including corn speedwell and ivy-leaved speedwell.  Near Ames, this plant is just now beginning to flower, but keep an eye out for it in your area as it seems to be the weed of the spring this year!

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Meaghan Anderson Field Agronomist in Central Iowa

Meaghan Anderson is a field agronomist in central Iowa and an extension field specialist at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Educational programming is available for farmers, agribusinesses, pesticide applicators, certified crop advisors, and other individuals interested in...