Doveweed Identification (pictures & how to kill it in lawns)

Doveweed (Murdannia nudiflora) is an annual weed with broad, grass-like leaves and small 3-petal purple flowers, and summer is its growth period.

While technically a weed is just a plant you don’t want in a place you don’t want it, this is one weed you definitely won’t want in your lawn. Why?

Simple: if you don’t get rid of Doveweed, your lawn’s turfgrass could end up choked out and will certainly sustain serious damage.

Today, I’ll explain everything you need to know to learn how to identify, prevent, and kill Doveweed in your lawn.

Trust and Accuracy Information

This article was last updated on by Lawn Chick Owner Sarah Jameson
Article content reviewed for accuracy by Certified Horticulturist Nicole Forsyth, M.S.

Do you have Centipede or St. Augustine grass as your lawn’s primary turfgrass? If so, you’ll find it a bit tricky to find the doveweed that may be present.

Doveweed Grass

That is because the wide, grass-like doveweed leaves resemble St. Augustine and Centipede grass to the untrained eye.

Often the way to tell the difference is the small purple flowers that this grassy weed grows.

But let’s begin with an overview to help with Doveweed identification.

What is Doveweed? (and how to identify it)

Doveweed is an aggressively growing weed. It spreads by way of stolons, which are creeping stems that occur above ground.

The stolons spread out laterally, allowing Doveweed to spread agressively across your lawn.

What is Doveweed

This weed’s leaves grow as long as four inches, and they tend to be thick and have a sheen. The veins in the leaves grow parallel.

Doveweed is part of the dayflower family, which is the Commelinaceae family of plants.

Have you ever seen invasive spiderworts? Doveweed is related to that plant.

Doveweed starts to germinate when the soil temperature gets to between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, this is why you often won’t see this annual weed established in your lawn until the summer.

This weed damages your lawn because of how it steals the soil’s nutrients, outcompeting many desirable types of lawn grass.

What Does Doveweed Look Like?

Dovewood has thick leaves with some shine on the surface. The leaves can grow as long as four inches.

Doveweed Flowers

During the summer months, any Doveweed in your lawn will grow flowers. When these bloom, they have three petals each and a lavender color. In my experience, recognizing these flowers is the key way most homeowners with limited weed identification experience can properly identify Doveweed.

What Does Doveweed Look Like

Many homeowners who didn’t previously know there was doveweed in their lawn realize that they do when the flowers start blooming and they ask what those weeds with purple flowers are called.

Doveweed Leaves & Roots

When looking for doveweed in your lawn, look for growth with a waxy look to the leaves. This is especially true at the leaf bases.

Also, doveweed has stolons that have a red tint.

In the fall months, you will see these flowers create fruits (seeds) that are key to how the annual weed persists in your lawn year after year.

Another feature of doveweed is how it can end up in clumps or mats of dense grassy leaves.

They may look like they have a velvety texture, but when you touch them, they will feel a bit rough.

A Distinct Odor

Something else should know about doveweed is how it smells bad when you crush or trample it.

Have you noticed a bad smell when you step on areas of your lawn? You may have doveweed, especially if you don’t have a dog using your backyard as a bathroom (dog poop isn’t good for grass by the way – so pick that up).

The Leaves Don’t Grow Up Toward the Sky

Doveweed may grow sideways. If you’ve noticed what looks like “grass”, but the leaves are growing out and to the sides in your yard, that may be this weed.

Where Does Doveweed Grow?

Doveweed is most likely to grow when soil is excessively moist.

Excessive moisture may occur as a result of inadequate soil drainage. This can happen where is incorrect irrigation or heavy rainfall, and it’s one of the reasons I recommend that homeowners quickly address standing water in their yard.

Where Does Doveweed Grow

In some cases, you may not realize you have a doveweed problem until it has killed your grass by stopping it from getting the oxygen and water it needs.

Once the doveweed has flowered (usually about the time homeowners notice and properly identify Doveweed) you’ve got a bigger problem on your hands as those flowers will soon turn to tiny seeds.

These seeds resemble small capsules with a green color, and they tend to have a tiny diameter.

Doveweed seeds are extremely durable. In some cases, seeds left in your yard can grow after several years in the soil.

While it’s an annual weed, Doveweed problems can persist in lawns for many seasons as a result.

Is Doveweed a Perennial or Annual Weed?

Doveweed is an annual weed, and it grows in the summer. Seed germination takes place in the late part of the spring.

Is Doveweed a Perennial or Annual Weed

That is because soil temperature needs to be between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

One of the key facts you need to know to fight Doveweed successfully is that this weed tends to sprout a little later than other kinds of weeds.

This means that if you’ve applied pre-emergent herbicide in February or even in March, it may not prevent Doveweed from growing.

Something else to remember about doveweed is that the seeds are extremely resilient. I mentioned earlier that they can stay in your soil and remain dormant for long periods of time, even years.

You will have to be persistent when dealing with Doveweed. In many cases, you will need to make several attempts over a few years to successfully eliminate it.

How to Get Rid of Doveweed in Your Lawn or Garden

Of course, you need to find a way to kill the Doveweed in your lawn without killing your turfgrass.

How to Get Rid of Doveweed

Be prepared for a fight, as many herbicides won’t kill doveweed.

Usually, you will have to use both pre-emergent herbicides (that block seed germination) and post-emergent types of herbicide (that kill established and actively growing weeds) to combat this troublesome lawn weed.

And you must be strategic in how and when you apply them.

For safety reasons, I recommend most homeowners try a natural approach first.

Natural Herbicide for Doveweed

I have a homemade weed killer recipe that you should try to kill established doveweed.

It’s a mixture of vinegar, salt, and dishwashing liquid is a DIY solution, and it should kill the Doveweed and any surrounding grass (after which, you can re-sod or spread seed in the area to re-establish that part of your lawn).

This is a post-emergent solution. That means that you apply it after the Doveweed has actually grown in.

Natural Herbicide for Doveweed

Keep in mind, however, that doveweed is known for being especially resilient. You might find that you need a chemical herbicide, instead.

Also, you will have to be precise with application, and since it’s growing in your lawn, you’ll inevitably kill some desirable turfgrass along with the Doveweed.

DIY Natural Herbicide Recipe

Here is a recipe for this natural herbicide that you can try:

  • One gallon of white vinegar
  • One cup of salt
  • One tablespoon of dishwashing liquid soap


  • Put the vinegar and salt into a bucket, and mix it with a wooden spoon with a long handle. Keep stirring until all the salt is dissolved.
  • After that, add and mix in the dishwashing liquid. Mix it in thoroughly.
  • The soap is important, as it will help the solution stick to your weeds.
  • Put your solution into a spray bottle so you can apply it to the area with Doveweed. You will need a funnel to do this, so have one at hand.

Remember, be careful about overspray. Any grass that gets sprayed may also die.

You’ll almost certainly have to re-apply this solution several times to successfully kill your doveweed.

Preventing Doveweed Growth

With any annual weed, prevention with an effective pre-emergent herbicide is the best long-term solution.

Pre-emergent herbicides (whether synthetic or natural) work by preventing the germination of any seeds in the area where you apply them.

This is important, because if you plan to overseed your lawn, most pre-emergents would stop that grass seed from growing the same way they block weed seeds.

Pre-emergent applications are in-line with my general philosophy that keeping your lawn thick, healthy, and well-maintained is one of the most effective steps you can take to prevent the growth of any kind of weed, including doveweed.

Expert Perspective

The Lawn Chick editorial team regularly interviews industry experts to bring our readers the latest science and expert recommendations to complement our own hands-on lawn care experience. 

We Asked: Why is maintaining a thick, healthy lawn one of the best ways to prevent weeds naturally?

Will Answered:By maintaining a thick lawn, you’ll be able to limit the amount of ground available for these weeds to take hold, all while promoting the lawn of your dreams and avoiding unnecessary harsh chemicals or preventative herbicide applications.”

Will Seip, Expert Lawn Advisor at Sunday

Will Seip

Expert Lawn Advisor at Sunday

Born and raised just south of Buffalo, NY, it has been quite a journey for Will getting to explore warm-season grasses after having a hodgepodge of fescue, bluegrass and rye in his lawn growing up. Will graduated from Cornell with a B.S. in Environmental and Sustainability Sciences, with a concentration in Land, Air and Water Resources.

Pre-Emergent Herbicides for Doveweed

If you’re putting down a pre-emergent crabgrass herbicide early in the spring, it may no longer be effective by the time conditions become favorable for Doveweed germination.

This is why a late-spring, second application of pre-emergent may be required in lawns with a history of Doveweed growth.

Pre-Emergent Herbicides for Doveweed

You can expect any doveweed seeds in your lawn to germinate at a certain soil temperature, between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

So, figure out when that soil temperature is likely to happen in your area, and make sure you apply an appropriate pre-emergent herbicide before that.

Carefully read the directions on the label before applying any pre-emergent to your lawn. You want to be sure the product you’re using is effective at blocking Doveweed seed germination.

The Organic Pre-Emergent I Recommend

Want to block weeds without the nasty chemicals? Try Weed Wipeout from Lawnbright.

This natural product is easy to apply with the included hose-end sprayer, and is made with liquid corn gluten meal – an effective pre-emergent herbicide that is USDA National Organic Program compliant and safer for kids and pets than traditional pre-emergent herbicides.

Save 15% on Your Order with Code LAWNCHICK15 is reader supported. If you make a purchase after clicking a link, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Post-Emergent Herbicides to Kill Established Doveweed in Your Lawn

Before you apply any post-emergent herbicide (a product that kills actively growing weeds), you have to know whether your post-emergent herbicide is selective or non-selective.

  • A selective herbicide will kill one kind of plant (weeds), without harming desirable plants (like your lawn grass.
  • A non-selective herbicide will kill almost any plant it comes in contact with (even non-weeds like your grass and flowers).

Any post-emergent herbicide should only be applied to weeds that are actively growing in your lawn, so with this type of product you need to wait until Doveweed is visible and growing on your property.

Post-Emergent Herbicides for Doveweed

In my experience, you want to be ready early so you can kill Doveweed in the early stages (before it flowers and goes to seed – pictured above).

You want the outdoor temperature to be approximately 70 degrees Fahrenheit before you apply post-emergent Doveweed herbicide. That is the time of year when doveweed tends to be weakest (and easiest to eliminate).

As doveweed is so resilient, you will probably have to apply a post-emergent herbicide on at least two occasions.

The second occasion will probably be in the summer months. Find the remaining Doveweed in your lawn and do a precise post-emergent herbicide application at that time.

My Recommendation

Personally, I try to stay away from synthetic herbicides because of safety concerns, but I know that many people are comfortable using them to kill lawn weeds.

Surge Selective Broadleaf Herbicide for Turf

If you do choose to use a post-emergent chemical herbicide, I recommend Surge, a complex selective broadleaf weed killer which will kill actively growing Doveweed.

It can damage and kill St. Augustine lawn grass (so be aware of that), and I’ve read some reviews that claimed it damaged Tall Fescue (but I believe that may have been a mixing and application error on the user’s part).

You can buy Surge here on, or right here on Amazon – but note that it’s not available for shipping to every state in the U.S.

Here’s a helpful video from showing an application of Surge to treat a Doveweed infestation in the lawn area near their office:

If you have a lawn with Centipede or St. Augustine grass and have concerns about using Surge, you could try an herbicide called Blindside instead (available on or on Amazon).

Sarah’s Safety Tips

As always – wear all recommend PPE including long sleeves and pants, closed-toe shoes, safety glasses, gloves, and a respirator or N95 mask when applying herbicide. In the video above a respirator is not used during application, but I recommend that you wear one.

Also, I suggest that you make sure your application is on a calm day without wind, and of course read and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Lawn Care Habits to Help Keep Your Lawn Weed-Free

Keeping your lawn healthy and dense is one of the best ways to keep out weed growth. Below, I’ll talk about the most important parts of lawn care.


The kind of grass species you have and your climate impact how often you should water your lawn. Find out the type of grass you have on your lawn and how often you should water it in your area and in the current season.

While it’s important not to underwater your grass, overwatering it can be just as bad. In fact, excessive moisture can make it easier for Doveweed to grow and take over your lawn.

If your lawn is prone to Doveweed growth, you should try to let the surface of the soil feel dry to the touch before re-watering.

You should cut down the frequency of your watering as much as possible without compromising the health of your turfgrass.

Appropriate Fertilization

Always test your lawn’s soil before fertilizing. This is important because you want to use an appropriate type of fertilizer.

Lawn Fertilization Weed Prevention

When you get your soil tested, ask for recommendations when it comes to levels of lime or sulfur to adjust your pH into the optimal range and learn the type of fertilizer application schedule that would be most appropriate.

Expert Perspective

The Lawn Chick editorial team regularly interviews industry experts to bring our readers the latest science and expert recommendations to complement our own hands-on lawn care experience. 

We Asked: How does soil pH impact a lawn’s ability to utilize the fertilizer you apply and the nutrients available in your yard’s soil?

Teri Answered:  “Soil pH is a crucial indicator of soil acidity, and tells us if your yard has the ideal pH for the plants (like grass) you’re growing. It also impacts how well grass utilizes applied fertilizer and absorbs soil nutrients. The sweet spot for lawn pH is between 6.5 and 7.0, but most lawns are adaptable, typically ranging from pH 4.0 to 9.0.”

“If your lawn is thriving but the pH isn’t in the ideal range, there’s no need to adjust it. It’s typically difficult to adjust pH levels, but if pH is too high,  you can try adding organic matter like compost, and if it’s too low, applying lime can help.”

Teri Valenzuela, Natural Science Manager at Sunday

Teri Valenzuela

Natural Science Manager at Sunday

At Sunday, Teri leverages data analysis, lawn and garden industry trends, and customer needs to create impactful content. With a combination of her conservation background and expertise in science communication and content strategy, Teri works to advance sustainable yard care practices on behalf of Sunday.

The type of turfgrass you have also plays a big part when deciding what kind of fertilizer you need.

You can ask experts at your local garden center to find out what you should apply the fertilizer to make your lawn healthier.

A healthy lawn helps to prevent weed growth simply because the grass grows in so thickly. Weeds have less opportunity to grow.


Mowing your lawn at the right height is an important part of keeping it healthy. The correct mowing height varies by the type of grass you have.

Weed Prevention Lawn Mowing

If you have any Doveweed on your lawn, try to get rid of it before mowing. That is because the process of cutting your grass can actually cause existing doveweed to spread by seed, creating even more of a problem.


Getting rid of turf thatch is another important lawn care practice in lawns that are prone to Doveweed.

A thick thatch level can cause moisture problems and other issues that allow Doveweed to gain a foothold.

Dethatching Lawn

When you have a thatch layer that is thicker than half an inch, there is the risk that it is blocking your grass roots from getting the water, oxygen, and nutrients needed to thrive.

Final Thoughts About Controlling Doveweed in Lawns

Doveweed is a troublesome and potentially damaging weed for your lawn.

If you have a warm-weather grass like Centipede or St. Augustine grass, you may find it difficult to recognize Doveweed right away, as from a distance it can resemble them.

Left untreated, Doveweed can spread quickly and choke out your desirable turfgrass. A combination of proactive management (pre-emergent applications and responsible fertilization and lawn care practices), and targeted post-emergent herbicide applications will help you get Doveweed under control in your lawn.

Interested in learning more? Check out my lawn weed identification guide before you go.

At Lawn Chick, I am committed to publishing accurate, useful, and trustworthy resources for my readers. As part of this commitment, I’ve invited subject matter experts to review our articles for accuracy. I invite you to read our editorial policy and publishing standards which outlines in detail how every article on this site is sourced, edited, fact-checked, and vetted.


Additional Resources
  • Doveweed Factsheet by Joey Williamson, PhD – HGIC Horticulture Extension Agent, Clemson University HGIC (link)
  • Doveweed: a Growing Problem in Warm-season Turfgrasses by Dr. Ramon Leon and Dr. Jay Ferrell, Extension Weed Specialists, University of Florida IFAS Extension (link)
  • Doveweed by Dr. Fred Yelverton, Extension Specialist, NC State University Extension (link)


Sarah Jameson’s blog, Lawn Chick, is read by over 2 million homeowners each year and she is regularly cited as an expert source of lawn care knowledge by major publications. Her goal is to meet you where you are, and help you achieve a yard you’ll be proud of. Ready to take the next step toward improving your lawn? Grab her free lawn care cheat-sheet: What to Do When - Take the Guesswork Out of Lawn Care, or upgrade your garage by browsing her favorite DIY lawn care products.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *