Tribulus terrestris (puncture vine)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- Habitat List
- Hosts/Species Affected
- Host Plants and Other Plants Affected
- Biology and Ecology
- Air Temperature
- Rainfall Regime
- Soil Tolerances
- Natural enemies
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Vectors
- Plant Trade
- Wood Packaging
- Impact Summary
- Threatened Species
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Tribulus terrestris L. (1753)
Preferred Common Name
- puncture vine
Other Scientific Names
- Tribulus hispidulus Presl (1845)
- Tribulus lanuginosus L.
- Tribulus terrestris L. var. hispidissimus Sond.
International Common Names
- English: bendy-eye; caltrop; common caltrop; common puncturevine; double gee; Malta cross
- Spanish: abrojo terrestre; cachito; diablito; toboso; torito
- French: croix de Malte; tribule terrestre
- Arabic: dacn-ash-sheikh; dreiss; gutiba; kharshoom-an-naga; kotaba; shiqshiq
- Portuguese: abrolhos
Local Common Names
- Australia: bendy-eye; bindii; bull's head; cat-head; ground bur-nut; yellow vine
- Ethiopia: akakima; cachito; kakite-harmath; kurakito; kuremehit; kurumshit; qottbet
- Germany: Erd- Buerzeldorn
- India: bakhra; bakhuri; betagokhru; chinnipalleru; chirupalleru; chota gokrhu; gakhura; gokhatri; gokhrudesi; gokrhu; gokshra; gokshura; ikshugandha; kanti; kokulla; lahangokhru; lotak; mithagokhru; nahanagokhru; nerinji; nerunji; palleru; rasha; sanna neggilu; sarala; sharratte
- Iraq: al-gutub; gotob
- Italy: tribolo
- Kenya: kungu; mbigiri; mbiliwili; okuro; shokolo
- Lebanon: kutrab
- Netherlands: Aardangel
- South Africa: common dubbeltjie; gewone dubbeltjie
- Uganda: esuguru; eziguru
- USA: burnut; land caltrop; Mexican sandbur; puncture weed
- TRBTE (Tribulus terrestris)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Geraniales
- Family: Zygophyllaceae
- Genus: Tribulus
- Species: Tribulus terrestris
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
DescriptionTop of page
The flowers are yellow, 5-petalled, 7 to 15 mm in diameter, solitary and borne on short stalks in the axils of the smaller of each pair of leaves; they open in the morning and close or shed their petals in the afternoon.
The fruit is a woody burr, approximately 1 cm in diameter, which splits into 4 or 5 wedge-shaped segments (carpels), each with 2 unequal pairs of spines and containing 1-4 seeds. Seeds are yellow, variable in shape but more or less ovoid and 2-5 mm long.
Plant TypeTop of page
DistributionTop of page
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 08 Jun 2021
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Congo, Democratic Republic of the||Present|
|-Haryana||Present||Original citation: Verma & Jai-Prakash, 1977|
|-Tamil Nadu||Present||Original citation: Siviprakasam & Rabindra, 1997|
|United Arab Emirates||Present|
|Austria||Present||Original citation: Tutin et al., 1968|
|Czechoslovakia||Present||Original citation: Tutin et al., 1968|
|Federal Republic of Yugoslavia||Present|
|Trinidad and Tobago||Present|
|-New South Wales||Present|
HabitatTop of page
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Protected agriculture (e.g. glasshouse production)||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed forests, plantations and orchards||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed forests, plantations and orchards||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed grasslands (grazing systems)||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Disturbed areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Rail / roadsides||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Urban / peri-urban areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural forests||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural grasslands||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Riverbanks||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Deserts||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Littoral||Coastal areas||Present, no further details|
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page
Host Plants and Other Plants AffectedTop of page
Biology and EcologyTop of page
Three ploidy levels, tetraploid (2n=24), hexaploid (2n=36) and octoploid (2n=48), have been detected in T. terrestris (Morrison and Scott, 1996a). Variations in populations of T. terrestris have also been found through isoenzyme analysis (Morrison and Scott, 1996b) and investigations of burr morphology (Scott and Morrison, 1996).
Physiology and phenology
Germination of T. terrestris starts in spring or during warm weather soon after the first rains of the season. Misra (1962) reported that this occurs within 5 to 7 days of late spring or early summer showers in India. A succession of germination episodes occurs throughout the rainy season, making control difficult. The majority of seed germination occurs in the upper 4 cm of loam soils (Goeden and Ricker, 1973), declining with depth and heaviness of soils. T. terrestris seeds can also germinate on the soil surface. Seeds can be dormant for 3-6 years, this period being extended by deep burial. The position of the seed within the carpel (burr segment) influences germination: seeds nearest the stylar end of the 2-, 3- and 4-seeded carpels tend to germinate first (Goeden and Ricker, 1973).
In the southern USA, 151 accumulated day degrees (heat units) are necessary for the emergence of T. terrestris seedlings (Alam and Wiese, 1985). Flowers are produced within 2-5 weeks of emergence and the flowering period can last for several months. The flowers are on a plant for approximately 2 weeks before fruit formation starts. Fruits (burrs) mature in about 2 weeks before splitting into four or five carpels (segments or cocci). One plant can produce in excess of 5000 fruits. Spines on the achenes are aligned so that at least one is pointing upwards when lying on the soil surface. The achenes easily become attached to animals, livestock, man or farm machinery from which they are dispersed to new locations where they fall off or are removed. Mas and Verdu (2001) have developed a model to estimate biomass that is based on non-destructive measurements of stem lengths.
The survival of T. terrestris in dry conditions is attributed to its deep roots (2 m or more) and large root volume which is capable of efficiently tapping available soil moisture. Davis et al. (1965) found that T. terrestris can have a root volume of 5.3 m³ and is able to extract 14.1 kg of water per plant in excess of the rainfall received. It is also a very efficient user of water; 96 kg of water is required to produce 1 kg of dry matter compared with lucerne (alfalfa) and sorghum which require 840 and 300 kg, respectively (Davis and Wiese, 1964). Since its water requirements are low, it can survive droughts, conversely, excess moisture can restrict its growth (Davis et al., 1965). Nodules containing bacteria (Bradyrhizobium) and cyanobacteria (Newmania karachiensis) can be found on the roots of T. terrestris (Mahmood et al., 1998).
The life cycle of T. terrestris plants is terminated by frosts but, in tropical climates, plants can exhibit a perennial habit.
T. terrestris occurs on almost any soil type but grows best in dry, loose, sandy soils and prospers near sand dunes or loose blown soil around field margins. It also grows in heavier soils, especially when these are fertile or moist, and on compacted soils such as those found along roadsides (Holm et al., 1977).
Nodules containing bacteria (Bradyrhizobium) and cyanobacteria (Newmania karachiensis) can be found on the roots of T. terrestris (Mahmood et al., 1998).
Air TemperatureTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit|
|Absolute minimum temperature (ºC)||5|
|Mean annual temperature (ºC)||20||30|
|Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC)||25||32|
|Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC)||10||25|
RainfallTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit||Description|
|Mean annual rainfall||300||1500||mm; lower/upper limits|
Rainfall RegimeTop of page
Soil TolerancesTop of page
Natural enemiesTop of page
|Natural enemy||Type||Life stages||Specificity||References||Biological control in||Biological control on|
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
T. terrestris can be found on the banks of streams and canals and is probably distributed by water. The spiny fruits are probably locally distributed after adhering to some wild animals.
Seeds of T. terrestris may have been disseminated across the world in the wool of European sheep. The weed is usually reported first near agricultural communities, railroad yards or coastal towns. It is often found in hay, straw or manure (Holm et al., 1977).
Pathway VectorsTop of page
Plant TradeTop of page
|Plant parts not known to carry the pest in trade/transport|
|Fruits (inc. pods)|
|Growing medium accompanying plants|
|Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches|
|True seeds (inc. grain)|
Wood PackagingTop of page
|Wood Packaging not known to carry the pest in trade/transport|
|Loose wood packing material|
|Processed or treated wood|
|Solid wood packing material with bark|
|Solid wood packing material without bark|
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Fisheries / aquaculture||None|
ImpactTop of page
Livestock can suffer injury to their mouths, eyes, digestive tracts and skin from the burrs of T. terrestris. Painful punctures of the feet can also occur, sometimes causing suffering, infection and lameness, especially to horses. In severely infested pasture, wounds to the mouth may result in reluctance to graze, followed by loss of condition in livestock (Holm et al., 1977).
T. terrestris is toxic to animals, mainly sheep, but also to goats and cattle. At least three forms of poisoning are involved: (a) nitrate poisoning occurs when sheep gorge themselves on the fresh lush growth. The nitrate is converted to nitrite in the rumen, leading to death; (b) photosensitization results after animals consume T. terrestris and a fungus on pasture litter, making sheep listless and sometimes causing death; (c) staggers (ataxia) arises after prolonged grazing. An irreversible weakness develops in the hind legs of sheep leading to paralysis and death. An estimated 20,000 sheep died of this disease in New South Wales, Australia during and after a prolonged drought in 1981-83 (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). An investigation of poisoning of sheep and goats by T. terrestris in Western Australia found symptoms which included anorexia, photophobia, dehydration, icterus, swollen and green kidneys, orange livers, and serious exudation around eyes, ears and tails (Jacob and Peet, 1987).
T. terrestris is reported as an alternative host of root-knot nematode (Meloidogyne spp.) (Haseeb and Pandey, 1995), Bean leaf roll virus which causes stunt in chickpea (Ghanekar et al., 1987), Tomato spotted wilt virus (Allen et al., 1983), silverleaf whitefly (Bemisia tabaci B biotype) of cantaloupe melons (Servin-Villegas et al., 2001) and sugarcane weevil (Nicentrus saccharinus) (Woodruff, 1972).
Threatened SpeciesTop of page
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Invasive in its native range
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
- Highly mobile locally
- Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
- Negatively impacts agriculture
- Negatively impacts animal health
- Negatively impacts tourism
- Reduced amenity values
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Competition (unspecified)
- Pest and disease transmission
- Produces spines, thorns or burrs
- Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
UsesTop of page
Extracts of T. terrestris have been found to control or suppress the growth of Spodoptera litura (Gunasekaran and Chellilah, 1985a; Prasad et al., 1993), Dysdercus cingulatus (Gunasekaran and Chelliah, 1985b), Meloidogyne javanica (Khurma and Singh, 1997), Meloidogyne incognita (Singh et al., 1991), Bulinus truncatus (Twaij et al., 1988), groundnut leaf miner (Senguttuvan and Dhanakodi, 1999), Macrophomina phaseolina (Dushyent Gehlot and Bohra, 1999) and Rice tungro virus [Rice tungro bacilliform virus / Rice tungro spherical virus] (Selvaraj and Narayanasamy, 1991). Antimicrobial activity has been found against Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli and Candida albicans (Jit et al. 1986). Leaf treatment of mulberry with aqueous extracts of T. terrestris and Psoralea corylifolia during the third larval instar of silkmoth (Bombyx mori) suppressed grasserie, caused by a nuclear polyhedrosis virus, by 60% (Sivaprakasam and Rabindra, 1997). Oil extracted from the seeds of T. terrestris has a synergistic effect when mixed with deltamethrin (Awwad et al., 1987).
T. terrestris has been cultivated in India to reduce soil erosion by wind and water and loss of soil moisture. It has also been used to improve soil texture and water holding capacity in wastelands (Brajeshwar, 2001-2002).
Uses ListTop of page
- Poisonous to mammals
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
T. longipetalus (synonym T. alatus), a weed of north Yemen, has winged fruits unlike the spiny fruits of T. terrestris.
T. micrococcus is a native of Australia and has been confused with T. terrestris. Local floras should be consulted for distinguishing characteristics.
T. zeyheri is mainly from eastern and southern Africa. It is an annual or biennial herb, sometimes confused with T. cistoides because of its large flowers, 15-50 mm in diameter (cf. up to 15 mm for T. terrestris), and similar fruits.
Kallstroemia maxima and K. pubescens are weeds of tropical America and the Caribbean islands where annual rainfall is less than 1600 mm. Both species are annual, prostrate herbs. Flowers are solitary, axillary and have 4-6 pale yellow petals, 6-8 mm long. Stipules are linear-lanceolate (in K. maxima) or sickle-shaped (K. pubescens). The fruit is dry, conical, glabrous (K. maxima) or with stiff hairs (K. pubescens).
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.Cultural Control
A primary objective of control is to prevent the production of seeds, which can remain viable in the soil for 3-6 years, and fruits (burrs) which injure man and livestock. Because the seeds germinate irregularly throughout the year and because the plants can flower and set seeds in such a short time, single or infrequent cultivations are not sufficient to reduce seed populations. T. terrestris has a taproot, so that shallow cultivation may be the most effective means of cultural control. Deep ploughing appears to have little advantage because the seeds are long-lived in the soil, especially when buried at depth. If fruits have formed, plants should be cut so that seeds cannot ripen (Holm et al., 1977).
'Prickle rollers' covered with carpet have been developed to gather and remove surface fruit from drying greens in vineyards (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992).
Soil solarization, using thin transparent polyethylene mulches for a period of 3-6 weeks, causes a considerable decline in the number of plants and dry weight of T. terrestris (Anju and Gaur, 1998).
Competition from perennial species or annual cover crops reduces the establishment and growth of T. terrestris but it is difficult to achieve on the sites most frequently infested (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992).
In Australia, ametryn is the most widely used herbicide; it is non-selective but can be used with care in built-up areas. A mixture of amitrole-T and 2,4-D is recommended for non-selective control in Western Australia. Picloram, glyphosate, linuron, 2,4-D and chlorsulfuron are also effective, and a wide range of herbicides are available for controlling T. terrestris in specific crops or situations, for example: bromacil in citrus; chlorthal dimethyl in a number of vegetable crops, cotton and lucerne; dicamba or picloram in sorghum and maize; dicamba in conservation tillage; metolachlor and flumetsulam in maize; MSMA or trifluralin in cotton; oryzalin in fruit trees; paraquat on fallows; 2,4-DB or acifluorfen in groundnuts; diquat, glyphosate, ammonium glufosinate, paraquat, terbumeton and terbuthylazine in vineyards, and trifluralin in many vegetable crops. All herbicides are more effective on seedlings than on mature plants (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). Imazethapyr and imazaquin give almost complete control when applied pre-emergence or early post-emergence to T. terrestris (Johnson and Talbert, 1993). Bentazone is an effective herbicide in peas (Johnson and Talbert, 1989). Excellent control of T. terrestris in sugarcane has been obtained with fluroxypyr in Australia (Webb and Feez, 1987). Oxadiazon has controlled T. terrestris in pigeonpea in India (Brar et al., 1990).
Biological control has proved feasible in the USA. A stem weevil (Microlarinus lypriformis) and a seed (or fruit) weevil (M. larenyii) were introduced into North America from Italy in 1961. After rapid establishment, they gave good control of T. terrestris in California and Arizona but they are killed by very cold conditions, as happened in Arizona in 1978, and by parasites and predators, especially those feeding on the eggs (Goeden and Kirkland, 1981; Julien, 1992). In Hawaii, USA the weevils destroyed 75% of the seeds and all plant growth within a year of being established on the island of Kauai (Nakao, 1966). There are good prospects for control of T. terrestris in other countries where the weevils are released. In Australia, the seeds of T. terrestris are sometimes attacked by the larvae of a small native moth, Aristotelia sp., but, although damage may be considerable on a local basis, there is no real control overall (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992).
ReferencesTop of page
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