By Susi Torre-Bueno, for Let’s Talk Plants! Originally published August 2015, No. 251, republished August 2023.
I recently learned about an invasive plant which can puncture bicycle tires, some shoes, even small truck tires. Commonly called puncturevine or goathead thorn, Tribulus terrestris, hails from Southern Europe and North Africa and may have arrived in California as early as 1900.
This adaptable weed “can grow under a wide range of conditions, but its success is likely due to its ability to thrive in hot and dry conditions where other plants cannot. It can be a major problem in “orchards, pastures, turf, and along roadsides and ditch banks.” This annual is a ground-hugger which can have stems up to 3 feet long and can produce up to 5000 seeds in one growing season. It is the exceedingly sharp seeds that cause problems for bikers, hikers and others. Removal can best be done by pulling out the plants, and a thick mulch can help keep the plant in check or even kill it.
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