Goose Grass

Goose Grass/Goosegrass (Eleusine indica)

Also known as Goosefoot, Silver Crab Grass, Crow Foot, and Wire Grass. This is a warm season annual that can also remain a perennial in tropical climates. It has many similarities to crab grass.

Stems spread flat on ground and have thick, whitish-silver roots that spreads out in a circular rosette pattern. Weed grows low to the ground in lawns, higher in unmowed areas.

Stems have a thick middle membrane that continues on into the folding leaf blade as a middle vein. Leaf blades randomly grow off of the stem. Leaves are dark green and grow anywhere from 3-12 inches long. Depending on this weed's species, there can also be rough, sparse hairs along the edge.

Each stem has 3 to 7 racemes, or finger-like spikes, growing upward at the top of a stem creating a whorl. A mature plant has 15 - 20 stems, producing 50
to 140 racemes on one plant.

The raceme has many tiny branches growing off of it called
a pedicel. There are numerous pedicels growing from one raceme at a 45 degree angles.

Photo: Tau Olunga

The distinguishing characteristic of goose grass is the
 looks like a zipper. 

This weed grows in clumps. If left unmowed, stems usually grow upright anywhere from 6 inches to 2 feet tall. They adapt to mowing height at the pedicel point, where flowering heads, or seed heads, are also located.

Another distinguishing characteristic is when mowing lawn the if mower blades don't cleanly cut grassy weed it leaves behind frayed stems, pedicels and flower heads in its wake.

Goose grass is competitive and difficult to remove. It invades infertile, tightly compacted, rocky soils but will adapt to any type of soil. It can be both a warm-season and cold-season weed and grows throughout the United States and Canada with some exceptions.

Seeds germinate in late spring to early summer requiring light and moisture. Use a preemergent two to three times up to early May. Soil temperature should be at 55 - 60 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 3 days for successful herbicide application. Germination occurs at 60 to 65 degrees. The goal is to apply preemergent 1 - 2 weeks before germination. Also try boiling water as a preemergent.

After May, when weed begins to grow the best option for manual removal is to dig weed out - it's root system is extensive. The root spreads rapidly and can get very well established, especially in thin turf. It spreads by seed, stems don't root at joints. If removing from turf, the downside is that the hole will need to be filled.

In the case of controlling garden weeds, dig weed out, cut or hoe to avoid seeds spreading and continue with suggestions below. Always use garden mulch, especially in early stages.

Solarizing black plastic mulch has also proven effective for killing weed and weed seeds. Depending on location of weed, cover crops may be an effective consideration if not planning on growing garden or turf right away.

Upon growth of a mature weeds - burning weeds and seeds with propane torch has worked. For herbicides use a glyphosate post-emergent. Spot treat clumps with a non-selective post-emergent. Be aware that post-emergent herbicides offer no guarantees.

It's better to focus on controlling goose grass by manual methods of removal combined with preemergent's. If weed is located in lawn, focus on seeding turf where it won't be so thin.


  • Goose grass resembles large crab grass (digitaria sanguinalis) because of the finger-like spikes and the two are often confused. A few ways to tell the difference between them are:

    - G.G. has darker leaves and only grows in tufts. A tuft has a base that is loose and the stems are close together while branches are loose at top.

    - G.G. seeds germinate in spring 1/2 month after crabgrass seeds germinate, or about late May. They will continues to germinate throughout summer.

    - New leaves on G.G. are folded and on crab grass they emerge rolled.

    - G.G stems don't root at joints, crab grass does.

    - G.G. seed heads are thicker.

  • Another incentive to eradicate this weed is that it attracts pests like aphids, cutworms, leaf-hoppers, mealy bugs and many more.

Related Articles:

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