It’s high season for Ohio’s noxious weeds laws

By:Peggy Kirk Hall, Attorney and Director, Agricultural & Resource Law Program Wednesday, May 29th, 2024
Poison hemlock plants growing in field

The poison hemlock popping up across Ohio and the questions we’re receiving in the Farm Office both signal that the high season for “noxious weeds” has begun. Ohio has several statutes and regulations intended to curtail the spread of the invasive and potentially harmful weeds we refer to as noxious weeds.  The most common question we’re hearing is this:  if there is a weed problem spreading onto or around my property, what can I do about it?

There are several answers to this question, and the first is to have a civil discussion with the landowner or agency responsible for the property, alerting them to the problem.  Sometimes that party simply doesn’t know about the weeds or doesn’t know how to remedy the problem.  If the neighborly discussion strategy fails, then the legal answer to the question depends upon two factors:  1) whether the weed is one named in the law or on the “noxious weeds” list, and 2) the location of the weed.

  1. Does the law apply to the weed?

There are two ways Ohio noxious weeds law would apply to a weed situation. One way is if the law specifically refers to the weed.  For example, one law specifically names wild parsnip, wild carrot, oxeye daisy, and wild mustard. The second way is if the law refers generally to noxious weeds, which applies to weeds named on Ohio’s noxious weeds list.  The Ohio Department of Agriculture has the responsibility of identifying and maintaining a list of noxious weeds—that list is in Ohio Administrative Code 901:5-37-01 and includes the following:

  • Shatter cane (Sorghum bicolor)
  • Russian thistle (Salsola Kali var. tenuifolia)
  • Johnsongrass (Sorghum halepense L. (Pers.))
  • Wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa)
  • Grapevines: when growing in groups of one hundred or more and not pruned, sprayed, cultivated, or otherwise maintained for two consecutive years.
  • Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense L. (Scop.))
  • Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum)
  • Cressleaf groundsel (Senecio glabellus)
  • Musk thistle (Carduus nutans)
  • Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)
  • Mile-A-Minute Weed (Polygonum perfoliatum)
  • Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum)
  • Apple of Peru (Nicandra physalodes)
  • Marestail (Conyza canadensis)
  • Kochia (Bassia scoparia)
  • Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri)
  • Kudzu (Pueraria montana var. lobata)
  • Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum)
  • Yellow Groove Bamboo (Phyllostachys aureasculata), when the plant has spread from its original premise of planting and is not being maintained.
  • Field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis)
  • Heart-podded hoary cress (Lepidium draba sub. draba)
  • Hairy whitetop or ballcress (Lepidium appelianum)
  • Perennial sowthistle (Sonchus arvensis)
  • Russian knapweed (Acroptilon repens)
  • Leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula)
  • Hedge bindweed (Calystegia sepium)
  • Serrated tussock (Nassella trichotoma)
  • Columbus grass (Sorghum x almum)
  • Musk thistle (Carduus nutans)
  • Forage Kochia (Bassia prostrata)
  • Water Hemp (Amaranthus tuberculatus)
  1.  What is the location of the weed?

There are several different noxious weeds laws, and which one applies depends on the location of the weed.  Here are the three most common locations we receive questions about:

  • If a noxious weed is in the fence row on land outside of a municipality, Ohio’s line fence law addresses noxious weeds in ORC 971.33—971.35.  The law states that a landowner or occupant may give notice to an adjacent landowner or tenant to clear “brush, briers, thistles, or other noxious weeds” within four feet of the line fence on the owner or tenant’s side of the fence.  If the adjacent owner or tenant fails to do so within 10 days, the landowner or occupant may provide notice to the board of township trustees and the trustees must view the premises and determine if there is just cause for the clearing.  If there is, the trustees must “cause the weeds to be cut, by letting the work to the lowest bidder, or by entering into a private contract.”  The county auditor must assess the costs on the landowner’s property taxes.
  • If noxious weeds, wild parsnip, wild carrot, oxeye daisy, wild mustard, or other harmful weeds are on private land beyond the fence row, a person may send written information to the township trustees of the weeds and where they exist.  The trustees must then notify the owner or about the existence of the weeds. The owner must either destroy the weeds or show the township trustees why there is no need for doing so.  If the owner does not take one of these actions within five days of the trustee’s notice, the township trustees “shall cause the weeds to be cut or destroyed and may employ the necessary labor, materials, and equipment to perform the task.” The county auditor must assess the costs on the landowner’s property taxes.
  • If noxious weeds are along a public roadway, Ohio law requires counties, townships and municipalities to cut or destroy the noxious weeds every year between June 1 and 20, August 1 and 20, and if necessary, September 1 and 20, or whenever it’s necessary to destroy the vegetation to prevent or eliminate a safety hazard.  ORC 5579.04 and 5579.08.

There are other laws that help us deal with the noxious weeds high season, and we review each of those in our law bulletin, Ohio’s Noxious Weeds Laws, in the Property Law Library on

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