Knawel or German moss (Scleranthus annuus). Photo: Betty Marose

Updated: March 2, 2023

Life cycle

Annual, summer or winter.

Growth habit

Low-growing can blend into established lawns unnoticed. Has wiry, grass-like appearance. Sometimes forms sprawling mats. Inconspicuous flowers.

closeup of knawel
Photo: MD Biodiversity, Jim Stasz


Seed germination mainly in spring but can occur later in the season.

Conditions that favor growth

Dry, sandy, infertile soil. 

Management in lawns

Lawn care practices

Maintain healthy, dense turf that can compete and prevent weed establishment.

Lawn Care

Mechanical management

Hand pulling or using an appropriate weeding tool are the primary means of mechanical weed control in lawns. This is a viable option at the beginning of an infestation and on young weeds. Hand pulling when the soil is moist makes the task easier. 

Mange Weeds Without Chemicals

Chemical treatment in lawns

A preemergent applied in late summer/early fall can help prevent winter annual knawel from germinating, however, you will not be able to sow grass seed. Or spot treat actively growing weeds with a liquid, selective, postemergent, broadleaf weed killer in the spring before it goes to seed (photo at top of page). Look for a product with one or more of the following active ingredients: 2, 4-DMCPP (mecoprop), Dicamba*, or Triclopyr.

*Do not spray herbicides containing dicamba over the root zone of trees and shrubs. Roots can absorb the product possibly causing plant damage. Read the product label for precautions. 

Lawn Herbicides for Weed Management