Diffuse knapweed is a short-lived perennial or sometimes biennial plant reproducing solely by seed. Seed remains viable in the soil five years or more, so infestations may occur a number of years after vegetative plants have been eliminated. The seeds can germinate from spring through early fall. Seedlings emerging in the fall often overwinter as a rosette of leaves, resuming growth again in the spring. The plants grow 2 to 4 feet tall with one or more stems. The leaves are pale green and 3 to 4 inches long. Rosette leaves are deeply lobed. Plants flower from early July through August and produce 1,000 or more seeds per plant. Diffuse knapweed has a rigid terminal spine about one-third of an inch long with four to five pairs of shorter, lateral spines (crablike). The plants have pink to light purple and occasionally white flowers.
In general, the knapweed infestations are small enough that herbicide and hand removal are the best and most cost-effective treatments in North Dakota. Biological control agents have been introduced in neighboring states to control spotted knapweed. There are 13 biological control agents currently permitted for use against knapweed species. Consult the N.D. Dept. of Agriculture or NDSU weed specialists for the latest information on which agents may be successful in the state.
From Lym and Travnicek, 2015, NDSU Circ. W-1411.