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Baby's Breath

Scientific Name:Gypsophila paniculata

Family: Caryophyllaceae (Pink Family)

Life-Cycle: Perennial that reproduces by seed




Baby's Breath Quick Guide
huge pile of baby's breath pulled in downtown Winthrop

Description
Bloom
(varies by elevation)

What to Do

When?

Invades Undisturbed Land
State Class
Many small, branching stems form a bushy round mound covered in tiny white flowers. Can cover large areas.
White flowers are small, about 1/8", and five lobed, often with a purple midstripe. Blooms late June to late Aug.
Aggressively treat new populations. Repeatedly dig small populations; mow before bloom; consider herbicides.
May-June, before it blooms and goes to seed; bag and throw-out seed-heads anytime.
Yes! Commonly found in dry soils of range land, roadside ditches, lightly grazed pastures, and abandoned fields

C
flowers
mature plant


General Description
. Baby's breath is an easily recognizable addition to the Methow Valley's list of weedy plant species. Typically thought of as an ornamental, baby's breath has escaped cultivation and is now spreading across our landscape unhindered.
. Overall, the plants look like round bushes that are bluish-green to gray in color. Plants can grow 3-4 ft tall. The round form comes from many, thin branches that spread widely from each main stem.
. Narrow, waxy leaves are inside or at the base of the plant.
. Many, small white flowers cover the plant's round shape. Flowers have 5 petals, and can smell strongly (some like it; some don't).
. It is commonly found in lightly grazed pastures, roadside ditches, and non-irrigated or abandoned fields. Once established, it will form dense stands that are difficult to control.

Life-Cycle
. Baby's breath is a perennial; new plants come up every year from the same root system.
. It spreads via seeds, not a spreading root system, but one plant can produce well over 10,000 seeds.
. Plants become brittle, break and roll like tumbleweeds, spreading seeds.
. Seeds can germinate in a matter of days; they do not require a dormant period.
. It has a long, deep taproot allowing it to thrive in arid conditions.
. New shoots only grow from the root crown, not from roots themselves. Severed crown pieces can produce new shoots, but not roots. Severed root pieces do not produce new shoots.
. Baby's breath can handle a wide variety of temperatures and moisture; it is most aggressive in areas of low rainfall.

Prevention & Control

    Prevent
    . Detect and eradicate new plants early; survey your property at least a few times each summer; baby's breath comes up later than many weeds (late June).
    . Refrain from driving vehicles and machinery through infested areas during seeding

    Hand-Pull & Digging
    Hand-pulling or digging should only be an option on very small or young populations, as early in the season as possible and when ground is wet. The taproot is so large and deep that hand-pulling is generally not recommended, but removing the "crown" of the thick root is the key. New shoots only grow from the crowns, not the roots. Severed crown pieces can produce new shoots, but not roots. Severed root pieces do not produce new shoots.

    Mowing, Grazing & Cutting
    . Mowing or weed-whacking before flowering reduces seed production but does not provide long-term control.
    . Light or irregular grazing is not effective; heavy grazing can prevent seeds.
    . If you cut flowering stems to prevent seed, bag the cuttings and throw them away or burn them in the fall/winter.
    . Burning is not recommended for controlling baby's breath as new plants can still grow from the thick root crown.

    Cultivation

    Severing the crown from the roots by cultivation (tilling) or hand-cutting to several inches below the soil surface destroys plants. Cultivated fields do not have baby's breath.

    Herbicides
    Baby's breath can be controlled with herbicides that contain metsulfuron (e.g. Escort or Ally) applied during the bolt to pre-flower growth stage.

    See the Herbicide section of the "Toolbox of Weed Control Methods" for more details on spraying.


Resources & Photos

Washington State noxious Weed Control Board Baby's Breath Page

Stevens County Noxious Weed Control Board Baby’s Breath Page

Okanogan County Noxious Weed Control Board

 More Images: The Burke Museum Herbarium

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
315 Riverside Avenue / PO Box 71    Winthrop, WA 98862     509.996.2870