Marestail is native to North America and completes a life cycle in one year like many other plant species. However, marestail can exist as both a winter or summer annual and is able to germinate almost all year. New plants can germinate very quickly after seed is dispersed – a few days to a week.
In the fall, marestail plants form a basal rosette and overwinter in this form. In the spring, the plants bolt quickly from the stem and if left uncontrolled for too long can become a huge problem. Mature plants can reach a top height of more than 6 feet, with the average height being 3-5 feet.
Flowers are produced at the top of the plant and the seeds feature an attached “parachute” (known as pappus) to more easily disperse them in the wind. Mature plants can produce more than 200,000 of these wind-borne seeds capable of travelling long distances. Mature seeds do not remain viable in the soil very long, but remember, in fair conditions, can germinate very quickly.
See this bulletin from the University of Illinois extension (written by Aaron Hager) for more information the biology of marestail.