Paspalum vs Crabgrass: What’s the Difference?

Don’t let weed management catch you off guard this season.

Although both are grassy weeds, there are some notable differences between Paspalum and Crabgrass.

Once you understand what you’re dealing with, you can choose the right tactics for fighting these pesky invaders.

Paspalum vs Crabgrass: Quick Answer

Both paspalum and crabgrass are two types of grass weeds, but they differ in several aspects, the most important being the following:

  • Paspalum is a perennial plant, meaning it survives for more than one year.
  • Crabgrass, on the other hand, is an annual plant. It completes its life cycle within one year and dies after producing seeds.

This is important because Perennials and Annuals require very different control techniques.

Identifying Paspalum and Crabgrass

Identifying Paspalum

Identifying Crabgrass

What is Paspalum?

Paspalum generally has broad leaves that grow vertically from a central crown, with a purple tinge at the base.

Paspalums have creeping stems that creep across the ground surface rooting as they go along.

These growths lead to dense colonies which can be very difficult to control when they reach this stage of growth especially if waterlogged conditions are present.

Paspalums will produce small stems with numerous small flower spikelets.

You may see tiny seed heads forming which then ripen into hard dark brown seeds that stick readily to clothing or animals.

Paspalum grows from late spring through summer and into early autumn.

What is Crabgrass?

Crabgrass is a fast-growing, coarse, annual grassy weed that spreads itself by seeds. Crabgrass is an annual – it dies each year and comes back from seed.

These plants have fibrous roots and grow in bunches or clumps with flat, smooth, wide leaf blades that give them their grass-like appearance. It grows parallel to the ground from a stem (and looks a bit like a crab).

Crabgrass is a prolific grower that can spread quickly over a lawn with thin or bare spots.

Its growth cycle starts in the spring. The seeds germinate when conditions are right and then take root before dying off at the end of the summer season – although they will return the following spring.

What do they have in common?

Paspalum and crabgrass have a lot in common.

They’re both types of grass, they both thrive in hot weather. They’re both resistant to many herbicide weed killers, and they can both destroy your lawn.

If you’re looking for a quick fix to rid yourself of paspalum or crabgrass in your yard or garden, Round-Up will kill them both – but it will also kill your grass if you’re not careful.

What are the important differences?

In terms of physical appearance, the two can be tricky to distinguish.

The most effective way to tell them apart is by digging up a plant and looking carefully at its roots.

  • Crabgrass has no bulb; it has fibrous roots, just like your regular lawn does (which is also a perennial).
  • Paspalum will have an underground bulb structure if you dig it up.

When it comes to treatments, what works for crabgrass might not work for paspalum because they are different types of plant.

For example, you can treat this weed with preemergent weed control in early spring or late summer/early fall before the seeds sprout

But this method won’t work for paspalum since it’s already established itself as a permanent root system (remember: paspalum has bulbs).

Treatment for paspalum will usually involve the targetted application of a glyphosate based product like Round-Up.

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Steve Kropp

Based in Melbourne, Steve's passion is vegetable gardening, and he’s been writing about it for almost 5 years. He also loves all things DIY and is always looking for a new project. When not working on his own garden projects or blogging, Steve enjoys spending time with his family, cooking meals with produce harvested from his garden, and coaching his son’s footy team.


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