Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Cenchrus echinatus
(southern sandbur)



Cenchrus echinatus (southern sandbur)


  • Last modified
  • 08 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Cenchrus echinatus
  • Preferred Common Name
  • southern sandbur
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Monocotyledonae

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C. echinatus.
CaptionC. echinatus.
Copyright©Colin Wilson
C. echinatus.
FlowersC. echinatus.©Colin Wilson


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Cenchrus echinatus L.

Preferred Common Name

  • southern sandbur

Other Scientific Names

  • Cenchrus brevisetus Fourn.
  • Cenchrus pungens HBK
  • Cenchrus quinquevalvis Ham. ex Wall.
  • Cenchrus viridis Spreng.

International Common Names

  • English: bur grass; hedgehog grass; mossman rivergrass; piquant cousin; sandbur grass; sandspur
  • Spanish: abrojo; cabeza de negro; cachorro; cadillo; cadillo carreton; cadillo correntino; cadillo tigre; espolon; guizazo; morado; mozote (de caballo); pasto camelo; pasto roseta; pega-pega; roseta; tembuque cadillo; zacate banderilla; zacate cadillo; zacate erizo; zacate huachapore
  • French: herbe rude

Local Common Names

  • Brazil: arroz bravo; capim carrapicho; capim roseta
  • Fiji: se bulabula
  • French Polynesia: piri-piri
  • Germany: Stacheliges Klettengras
  • Mauritius: herbe à cateaux
  • Philippines: agingai; cauit-cauitan; sagisi
  • Samoa: vao tuitui
  • Sri Lanka: kuvenitana
  • Thailand: yaa son krachap; ya-bung
  • Tonga: hefa
  • USA/Hawaii: konpeito-gusa; ume alu

EPPO code

  • CCHEC (Cenchrus echinatus)

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Monocotyledonae
  •                     Order: Cyperales
  •                         Family: Poaceae
  •                             Genus: Cenchrus
  •                                 Species: Cenchrus echinatus

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Top of page The name Cenchrus is from the Greek word for millet, cenchros. The Greek species name echinatus means armed with spines.


Top of page Erect, 30-90 cm high, forming loose tufts, lower parts of the culm sometimes prostrate, rooting at the lower nodes. The stems are usually flattened and dark green. The leaves are flat, smooth to hairy, 5-30 cm long, 3-11 mm wide, with hairs at the mouth of sheath, the sheath compressed with moderately stiff hairs on the margin of the upper part. The youngest leaf is rolled. The ligule is replaced by a ring of hairs (0.7-1.7 mm long); auricles are absent.

Inflorescence forms a dense cylindrical spike, 3-10 cm long, 1-2 cm wide, the rachis is strongly undulate and rough, spikelets enclosed in spinous burs; distance between individual burs is 2-3 cm. Each bur contains 2-4 spikelets, 5-7 mm long without pedicels. The burs are compressed at the base, globular, clustered, 5-10 mm long, 3.5-6 mm wide, irregular in length and thickness, the inner ones larger than the outer. The tips of the spines turn purple with increasing maturity.


Top of page C. echinatus grows from latitudes 33°S to 33°N in the tropics and subtropics of America, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Distribution Table

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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.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes


CambodiaPresentWaterhouse, 1993
ChinaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-ZhejiangPresentHu et al., 2009
IsraelPresentFeinbrun-Dothan, 1986
LaosPresentWaterhouse, 1993
MalaysiaPresentStone, 1976; Hitchcock, 1971
Middle EastPresent
PhilippinesWidespreadHolm et al., 1977; Holm et al., 1991; Waterhouse, 1993; Pancho and Obien, 1995
Sri LankaWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
ThailandPresentHolm et al., 1977; Noda et al., 1985; Holm et al., 1991; Waterhouse, 1993
VietnamPresentWaterhouse, 1993


GhanaPresentHutchinson and Dalziel, 1972
MauritiusPresentHolm et al., 1991
NigeriaPresentHutchinson and Dalziel, 1972
RéunionPresentPeterschmitt et al., 1991
West AfricaPresentHutchinson and Dalziel, 1972; Akobundu and Agyakwa, 1987

North America

MexicoPresentMoreno-Casasola, 1988; Hall and Vandiver, 1991; Holm et al., 1991
USAPresentLunsford et al., 1987; Powell et al., 1990; Holm et al., 1991
-ArizonaPresentTickes, 1992
-FloridaPresentWunderlin, 1939; Hall and Vandiver, 1991; White et al., 1995
-HawaiiWidespreadHASELWOOD and MOTTER, 1966; Hitchcock, 1971; Holm et al., 1977; Munroe and Nishimoto, 1988; Holm et al., 1991

Central America and Caribbean

BarbadosPresentHammerton, 1981
Costa RicaPresent, few occurrencesSoto et al., 1986; Holm et al., 1991
CubaPresentPerez et al., 1985; Holm et al., 1991
Dominican RepublicPresentHolm et al., 1991
GuatemalaPresentHolm et al., 1991
HondurasPresentHolm et al., 1991; Zelaya et al., 1997
JamaicaPresentHolm et al., 1991; Barker-Cohen, 1992
Puerto RicoPresentHolm et al., 1991

South America

ArgentinaPresentHolm et al., 1991
BoliviaPresentHolm et al., 1991
BrazilWidespreadHolm et al., 1977; Machado and Marchezan, 1989; Holm et al., 1991; Carmona, 1995
-GoiasPresentBarros, 1989; Barros et al., 1992
-Minas GeraisPresentLaca-Buendia and Pires, 1992; Silva et al., 1996
-ParaibaPresentAzevedo et al., 1997
-ParanaPresentAlmeida et al., 1983
-Rio Grande do SulPresentOliveira et al., 1989
-Sao PauloPresentBlanco et al., 1981; Cruz et al., 1991; Ramos and Pitelli, 1994
ChilePresentHolm et al., 1991
ColombiaWidespreadCardenas et al., 1972; Holm et al., 1977; Holm et al., 1991
EcuadorPresentJenett-Siems et al., 1994
ParaguayPresentHolm et al., 1991
PeruWidespreadHolm et al., 1977; Cerna-Bazan and Rojas-Vargas, 1979; Holm et al., 1991
SurinamePresentEveraarts, 1993
VenezuelaWidespreadHolm et al., 1977; Holm et al., 1991


HungaryPresent, few occurrencesHolm et al., 1991


AustraliaPresentGroves, 1991; Hall and Vandiver, 1991; Holm et al., 1991
-Australian Northern TerritoryPresentGroves, 1991; Miller, 1991
-QueenslandPresentGroves, 1991
FijiPresentHolm et al., 1991
Micronesia, Federated states ofPresentHolm et al., 1991
Papua New GuineaPresent, few occurrencesHolm et al., 1991
SamoaPresentWhistler, 1983
TongaPresentWhistler, 1983; Holm et al., 1991


Top of page C. echinatus is a native of tropical America, occuring as an adventive in most tropical countries. It can grow in many habitats and is found in dry and moist regions in rainfed and irrigated crops and has been reported as a weed of 18 crops in 35 countries, mostly in cereals, pulses, vineyards, plantation crops and pastures (Holm et al., 1977). It prefers moderate moisture and light, sandy, well-drained soils at low elevations (Holm et al., 1977).

Habitat List

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Biology and Ecology

Top of page C. echinatus is an annual grass, germinating in spring and flowering most of the year round in the moist tropics. Dormancy of its seeds can be broken by scarification, excision of the caryopsis and 5 minutes immersion in 1-3% potassium nitrate solution (Martins et al., 1997).


Top of page C. echinatus occurs as a weed in many crops worldwide. It is common in cultivated fields, pastures, fallows, orchards, vineyards, coffee, vegetables, bananas, coconuts and lawns, where it can withstand repeated defoliation. It can be found along roadsides and beaches, in open ground and waste places. Crops competing for nutrients with C. echinatus typically have smaller leaf areas and lower growth rates and yields (Hammerton, 1981; Everaarts, 1993; Ramos and Pitelli, 1994).

The burs of the seed heads can become firmly attached to clothes and coats of animals by the barbed spines. These can penetrate the skin causing painful or annoying injuries. In feeds and hay, the burs of the seed heads reduce the acceptability and palatability of the feed to animals. Nevertheless, it can serve as a forage grass before the burs are formed.

C. echinatus also has some relevance as an alternative host for maize streak monogeminivirus and sugarcane streak monogeminivirus (Brunt et al., 1996).

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Scaevola coriacea (dwarf naupaka)NatureServe NatureServe; USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition (unspecified)US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Impact mechanisms
  • Competition

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

Top of page In West Africa, the similar species C. biflorus can be found, which can be distinguished by having no prickles. Spikelets of C. biflorus are also united at the base to form a disc and not to form a cup as in C. echinatus (Akobundu and Agyakwa, 1987).

In south-eastern USA, C. incertus (coast sandspur) is found concurrently with C. echinatus. The presence of two types of spine on the bur of C. incertus distinguish it from C. echinatus. C. echinatus is also similar to field sandbur, which has been amalgamated with C. incertus (USDA-ARS, 1999), but C. echinatus has burs which are more reddish and more wide than long, being widest at the base.

In C. brownii, the burs are larger, fewer and less densely arranged than in C. echinatus (Hitchcock, 1971; Cardenas et al., 1972).

The rare native species C. calyculatus (Western Polynesia) is more robust and its bur is less spiny than C. echinatus (Whistler, 1983).

Prevention and Control

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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

Cultural control methods for C. echinatus are similar to those used for weeds in general. These range from cutting, mowing, mulching, tillage and short-term fallows to flooding and are mainly used by small scale farmers.

Biological Control

Concentrated extracts of the shoots and roots of Alocasia sanderiana can be used as a pre-emergence herbicide, inhibiting germination of C. echinatus. As a contact herbicide, the extract is less effective (Gonzal et al., 1989).

A mixture of three fungal pathogens (Drechslera gigantea, Exserohilum rostratum and E. longirostratum) of grasses, applied as an emulsion, controlled C. echinatus in greenhouse and field trials. The crops tested (maize, oats, wheat, sorghum and rye) were immune or resistant to the tested pathogens (Charudattan et al., 1999).

Chemical Control

Herbicides are used by larger growers (Hammerton, 1981; Laca-Buendia and Pires, 1992; Zelaya et al., 1997), instead of cultural methods.

The post-emergence herbicides fluazifop and sethoxydim give good results in onions and soyabeans whereas pre-emergence herbicides give poor control of C. echinatus in soyabeans (Almeida et al., 1983; Barros, 1989; Barker-Cohen, 1992). Fluazifop and haloxyfop also provide season-long control of annual grasses in groundnuts (Lunsford et al., 1987; Cruz et al., 1991).

Fluazifop and fenoxaprop show good efficacy against C. echinatus in rice (Soto et al., 1986), but fluazifop has to be applied at the 3-4 tiller stage before flowering to avoid crop damage.

In cotton, the post-emergence herbicides sethoxydim and clethodim control C. echinatus without any damage to the crop (Laca-Buendia and Pires, 1992).

In cabbage, a treatment with the pre-emergence herbicide oxyfluorfen, with the additional application of chlorthal-dimethyl or trifluralin gives good results (Munroe and Nishimoto, 1988), whereas trifluralin, metolachlor, fluazifop, haloxyfop, fenoxaprop, chloramben and fluorochloridone control C. echinatus in sunflower (Machado and Marchezan, 1989; Oliveira et al., 1989; Avila et al., 1991).

High yields and good control of different weeds in tomato, including C.echinatus were obtained using metribuzin and pendimethalin (Cerna-Bazan and Rojas-Vargas, 1979).

In lawns, C.echinatus can be controlled by oryzalin, pendimethalin and benfluralin (McAfee, 1998).

Integrated Control

In sugarcane, an integrated method of control consisting of appropriate soil preparation made by subsoilering, ploughing and harrowing before cane setting followed by atrazin application shows good weed control. Subsequent on off-barring and hilling-up by cultivators should be practised once or twice before cane leaves are closed in (Kleopan-Suwanarak et al., 1987).


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Barros ACde, 1989. Efficacy and selectivity of post-emergence herbicides for control of southern sandbar (Cenchrus echinatus L.) in soyabean crops. Comunicado Tecnico - Empresa Goiana de Pesquisa Agropecuaria, No.15:9 pp.

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Cruz LSP, Novo MCSS, Pereira JCVNA, Nagai V, 1991. Herbicides applied post-emergence in groundnuts: I. Weed control and persistence in the soil. Bragantia, 50(1):103-114

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Distribution Maps

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