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  • Writer's pictureMatt Weber

What are the Stripes in My Lawn?

(guest post by Valerie Smith)

The transition between autumn and winter often has harsh effects on home turfgrass. Although the ground beneath may still be warm, the air is slowly getting colder and crisper. This combination of soil and air temperatures often creates strange results in lawns, including the appearance of unusual stripe patterns. While there are many ways to describe these squiggly lines, the most common names for the stripes in your lawn are tiger stripes and Jack Frost trails. These unique patterns are caused by unsynchronized dormancy, a term that refers to grass going dormant at different stages. As disturbing as their appearance may be, there is no reason for homeowners to be alarmed by them.

What do Jack Frost trails look like?

When you first encounter these stripes on turfgrass, you may instantly assume that your lawn is infested with disease or pests. Although its symptoms may appear similar, there are actually several significant differences between Jack Frost trails and lawn disease.

While lawn diseases start in small patches and slowly expand, Jack Frost trails typically cover entire lawns. Their zebra-looking patterns are also very unique, as most fungal diseases create circles of brown grass rather than lines.

Not only are Jack Frost trails much different than lawn diseases, but they also produce different symptoms than pest infestations. Generally, insects and even small rodents will create a path extending from one spot in your lawn. Jack Frost trails, on the other hand, create patterns scattered throughout your entire lawn instead of just one straight trail.

What causes Jack Frost trails in lawns?

As mysterious as Jack Frost Trails may be, there is a quite simple reason for its appearance. As previously mentioned, these unique patterns are caused by unsynchronized dormancy, a term that refers to grass going dormant at different stages. Many factors play into unsynchronized dormancy, including cold air temperatures, warm soil conditions, moisture in the air and the density/height of the grass. When combined, these conditions result in frost damage to the grass.

Because every lawn may not go dormant at the exact same time, you may notice Jack Frost trails only on your yard but not your neighbor’s lawn. In fact, you may only notice Jack Frost Trails in certain sections of your yard, while other areas remain unaffected. This is completely normal since the conditions have to be just right for these grass stripes to appear.

When the aforementioned factors are combined with thermal currents, certain sections of the lawn will turn brown while other sections survive the frost and maintain their color.

What types of grass do Jack Frost trails affect?

Tiger stripes mainly affect warm season lawns, since these grasses aren’t as adaptable to the colder weather. Zoysia and bermuda grass are the most common grass types to experience Jack Frost Trails.

Of course, not all warm season grasses may develop stripes since the conditions must be favorable for Jack Frost Trails to take place. What occurs one year may never happen again in the same location, since it depends on the climate and how early the first frost is.

Should I worry about Jack Frost trails in my lawn?

Even if your lawn experiences frost damage, the roots will continue to grow and heal the affected grass blades. Once the conditions of winter remain consistent, your entire lawn will enter dormancy.

In short, there is no reason to worry about grass stripes on your winter lawn. These unique patterns that cover your yard are simply the result of the cold temperatures that take place as the seasons change.

Want to learn more about achieving a great lawn? Check out more Sod University tips here and subscribe to the weekly newsletter.

Editor's Note: This article was written by Sod Solutions Content Strategist, Valerie Smith. To view this article on Sod Solutions website click here.

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