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Weed Identification: Sand Bur

Sand Bur (Cenchrus longispinus) is native to North America. It has other names like sand spur,
long-spined sand bur, hedgehog grass, and bur grass. Sand Bur is an annual grass usually growing with a prostrate growth form. It is similar in appearance to other grasses prior to seed formation. Individual plants may be 3’ in diameter, sometimes larger.

Sand Bur is a common weed of sandy soils but also grows well elsewhere. Sand Bur will often root at stem nodes that are touching the ground. The root system of Sand Bur is shallow and fibrous making them easily pulled (when immature).

Sand Bur produces a flowering spike. As seeds begin to form Sand Bur is easily recognized by its numerous sharp or burred seeds or long spines.

As the burred seeds mature they are easily separated from the mother plant and their sharp spines stick to virtually anything. Sand Bur can disseminate its seeds long distances because its sharp spines will hitch a ride on skin, animal hides, shoes, and clothing.

Sand Bur can be removed without the need of chemicals. Simply pull up the young plants. It is essential to pull them when they first identified by their burred seed spikes. At this time the burred seeds are green and the spikes are softer and less likely to separate from the mother plant. Pull them at this time using gloves, a fork, or a shovel and you will be able to remove the plant along with all its seeds.

Removing plants in this manner a couple times per season for a couple seasons and you will be able to rid your yard of this prickly pest.

Contact Trees That Please Nursery for more information. 

Photos & Narrative By:
Stephen Sain
Staff Plant Physiologist


Chaparral Earth said…
Those things are hideous. They use to grow up around our School football field.In school we use to pick them and throw them at each other. Hit someone in the back and they knew it instantly.

I also had my cat get some caught in his fur. As cats do he went to clean it off and these things got stuck in his mouth. I had a heck of a time getting them out, but I did. The cat ran home.
They truly are prickly pests! Thank You for your comment.
Desert Dweller said…
Just out at a very old, very neglected project for the CABQ on the west mesa last week. As I manuvered around one of the screwbeans, I got back to my car and ouch! I keep forgetting to be careful out in that part of town. Glad they can be ridded of that easily.
Anonymous said…
picked sack after sack...still thousands.
Anonymous said…
tomw morning I'll be doing some covert operations "vigilante lawn maintenence". My neighbor neglects his yard for mos. at a time, and now these oh so painful little shootheads are wreaking havoc upon my yard. They find their way into our shoes boots, dogs and cat, and I can't take it any more..wish me luck..

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