Puncturevine (Tribulus terrestris)

 
 
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Description
It is a taprooted herbaceous perennial plant that grows as a summer annual in colder climates. The stems radiate from the crown to a diameter of about 10 cm to over 1 m, often branching. They are usually prostrate, forming flat patches, though they may grow more upwards in shade or among taller plants. The leaves are pinnately compound with leaflets less than 6 mm (a quarter-inch) long. The flowers are 4–10 mm wide, with five lemon-yellow petals. A week after each flower blooms, it is followed by a fruit that easily falls apart into four or five single-seeded nutlets. The nutlets or "seeds" are hard and bear two to three sharp spines, 10 mm long and 4–6 mm broad point-to-point. These nutlets strikingly resemble goats' or bulls' heads; the "horns" are sharp enough to puncture bicycle tires and to cause painful injury to bare feet. Tribulus terrestris has a toxic effect in sheep.

Key Identifiers

  • Spreading along ground to form dense mats
  • Leaves are hairy and divided into 4-8 oval leaflet pairs
  • Yellow, five-petal flowers, open in mornings
  • Green to reddish brown stems
  • Sharp-pointed fruits
  • Spiny seeds break into sections when mature
Location in Canada
In Canada, puncturevine has been reported in British Columbia and Ontario. Alberta has no known reports.

Resources Similar species
Cinquefoil (Potentilla spp.) flowers may look similar but leaves will quickly differentiate species.

Richard Old, XID Services, Inc., Bugwood.org
Utah State University Archive, Utah State University, Bugwood.org

Steve Dewey, Utah State University, Bugwood.org
 
 
 
 

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For more information about the content of this document, contact Nicole Kimmel.
This document is maintained by Shelley Barkley.
This information published to the web on April 11, 2012.
Last Reviewed/Revised on March 21, 2014.