Weeds may be unwanted for a number of reasons: they might be unsightly, or crowd out or restrict light to more desirable plants (especially crop plants) or use limited nutrients from the soil.
They can harbor and spread plant pathogens that infect and degrade the quality of crop or horticultural plants. Some weeds are a nuisance because they have thorns or prickles, some have chemicals that cause skin irritation or are hazardous if eaten, or have parts that come off and attach to fur or clothes. Weeds generally share similar adaptations that give them advantages and allow them to proliferate in disturbed environments whose soil or natural vegetative cover has been damaged. Naturally occurring disturbed environments include dunes and other windswept areas with shifting soils, alluvial flood plains, river banks and deltas, and areas that are often burned. Since human agricultural practices often mimic these natural environments where weedy species have evolved, weeds have adapted to grow and proliferate in human-disturbed areas such as agricultural fields, lawns, roadsides, and construction sites. The weedy nature of these species often gives them an advantage over more desirable crop species because they often grow quickly and reproduce quickly, have seeds that persist in the soil seed bank for many years, or have short lifespans with multiple generations in the same growing season.
Perennial weeds often have underground stems that spread out under the soil surface or, like ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea), have creeping stems that root and spread out over the ground.