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Commonly Found Weeds in Vermont Pastures

Commonly Found Weeds in Vermont Pastures

Sid Bosworth, Extension Professor, Department of Plant and Soil Science, University of Vermont

There are many weeds that can be found in pastures in Vermont.  The following list represents some of the more commonly found species or some of the more problematic species.  According to a 2010 survey of 49 pasture farms in Vermont, the top five weeds identified as most problematic were smooth bedstraw, common milkweed, Canada thistle, goldenrod and bull thistle.  To see the complete list, refer to Table 1.  

Weeds vary in their habitat and degree of aggresive growth.  Some weeds are opportunistic only showing up in open areas or compacted areas near fence gates and watering sites.  Others can be quite competitive and will spread quickly through a field or pasture. 

To see a larger image, click on the respective thumbnail picture.
Broadleaf Weeds
Bedstraw, Smooth
Creeping perennial
Propagation by seed and rhizomes
Very aggressive spreading weed

Buttercup species
Simple and/or creeping perennial
Propagation by seed (and stolons for some species)
Mildly toxic to livestock but usually unpalatable
Propagation by seed
Mostly found around watering or feeding areas
Bull thistle
Propagation by wind dispersed seed only
Young plants form a rosette
Canada thistle
Creeping perennial
Propagation by seed and deep rhizomes
Will form in large colonies
Curly dock
Taprooted perennial
Propagation by seed

Cinquefoil species
Simple and/or creeping perennial
Propagation by seed (and stolons for some)
Often associated with poor fertility
Simple taprooted perennial
Propagation by seed
Occasionally causes allergenic dermititis to humans

Simple taprooted perennial
Propagation by wind blown seed 
Dogbane, Hemp
Creeping perennial
Propagation by seed and rhizomes
Very mildly toxic but normally not palatable
Weed Science Soc. of America
Creeping perennial
Propagation by seed and rhizomes
Hoary allysum
Biennial or simple perennial
Propagation by seed
Potentially toxic to susceptible horses
Creeping perennial
Propagates by seed and rhizomes
Poisonous but not readily eaten by livestock
Knapweed, Spotted
Biennial or short lived perennial
Propagation by seed
Can aggresively take over areas
Milkweed, Common
Creeping perennial
Propagation by seed and rhizomes
Mildly toxic but normally not palatable
Nightshade, Eastern Black
Annual found in open areas or rock outcrops
Propagates by seed
Very poisonous
Plantains (Broadleaf and Narrowleaf)
Simple perennial
Propagation by seed
Simple perennial
Propagation by seed
All parts are poisonous to livestock
Spurge, Leafy
Creeping perennial
Propagation by seed and rhizomes
Moderatly toxic  to cattle but unpalatable
White Campion
Annual but can act as biennial or short lived perennial
Propagation primarily by seed
Will vegetativelly propagate from root buds
Wild Carrot
Propagation by seed
Wild Chervil
Biennial (but can creep)
Heads out month earlier than Wild Carrot
Propagation by seed
Will produce horizontal stems if mowed frequently
Wild Parsnip
Biennial (very aggressive spreading weed)
Propagation by seed
Causes photoreaction to humans and livestock
Yellow Rattle
Propagation by seed
A small herb but hemiparasitic to forage grasses
Picture taken by Steve Gorelick 2009

Grasses and Grass-Like Weeds
Fine Fescues (Red, Hard, Sheep)
Perennial bunchgrass (except creeping red fescue)
Propagation by seed (and rhizomes with red fescue)
Narrow, wiry leaves not very palatable
USDA Plant Data Base
Sweet Vernalgrass
Perennial bunchgrass
Propagation by seed
Not very palatable
Rush species
Perennial grass-like  plant that prefers wet areas
 by seed and short rhizomes
Not very palatable

Yellow Nutsedge
Creeping Perennial
Propagation by seed and nutlets
Not very palatable

If you have other weeds to suggest for the list above, please send me an email at

In addition to the list above, here are a few excellent Weed ID sites within the Northeast that cover a wider range of weeds for various habitats:

Weed Images from Un. of Mass

Weed Images and Descriptions from Rutgers

Weed Identification Guide from Virginia Tech

This site is maintained by, Plant & Soil Science Department, University of Vermont.

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Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture. University of Vermont Extension, Burlington, Vermont.University of Vermont Extension and U.S. Department of Agriculture, cooperating, offer education and employment to everyone without regard to race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, or marital or familial status

Last modified January 21 2015 03:44 PM

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