Turfgrass's Least WANTED Weed - Puncture VineMay 2, 2019
Description and Where to Find
Puncture Vine (Tribulus terrestris) appropriately named, is a summer annual broadleaf weed that’s mostly found in dry climates throughout the United States. It is native to southern Europe and grows in a number of different conditions, but it flourishes in hot and dry conditions where many plants cannot survive. It is a noxious weed that can wreak havoc on orchards, pastures, turf and along roadsides, where conditions are ideal. Although the plant does not look threatening, it can be toxic to sheep and cattle, and to the human touch with its incredibly spiky seedpods. The seedpods look very similar to caltrops, which are metal, spiked devices historically used to slow troops or puncture vehicle tires. These seedpods have the same capability, with a hard spiked casing they can injure livestock, people, pets and even bicycle and ATV tires.
How to Identify
The puncture vine grows low to the ground and usually forms very thick growths 2 to 5 feet in diameter. The reddish-brown stems grow radially from a woody taproot and doesn’t root from the stems. Flowers are yellow and small that grow on short stalks at the leaf nodes. Flowers grow solitary and have 5 petals, 5 sepals and 10 stamens that develop into burs with stout spines. The leaves grow opposite of each other, have short stalks and are about 1 to 3 inches long. It grows numerous and dense stems that grow up to 6 feet long. The fruit are caltrop-like, with sharp rigid spines.
Threat to Animals and Humans
It is a huge nuisance to humans and threateningly toxic to livestock. During the 1900s, puncturevine was a big problem on roadsides as it’s burs easily punctured tires of vehicles. The weed has the ability to produce 200 to up to 5,000 seeds in one growing season, and the buried seed usually can remain viable for 3 to 6 years. This can cause a real danger to livestock and pets as it can injure the mouth and digestive tract, if ingested. The hard-cased burrs have the potential to pierce hooves, shoes, paws and even bicycle and ATV tires. Due to its very deep taproot, puncturevine aggressively contends for water and nutrients from crops, trees and turf.
How to Manage
Mowing will be ineffective due to the low growth form of the plant. Hand-pulling can be effective, if the population is low, but should be done before any spiny fruit develop. Burrs should be collected and removed by sweeping or raking the ground. Patting the ground with a piece of carpet has also proven to work well. Herbicide should be applied to ensure regrowth is subsided, but burrs will still need to be removed by hand. After control is managed, plant with area suitable plants to provide contention for nutrients and reduce further invasion.