Tribulus cistoides (false puncture vine)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Hosts/Species Affected
- Biology and Ecology
- Latitude/Altitude Ranges
- Air Temperature
- Rainfall Regime
- Soil Tolerances
- Natural enemies
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Impact Summary
- Threatened Species
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Tribulus cistoides L.
Preferred Common Name
- false puncture vine
Other Scientific Names
- Kallstroemia cistoides (L.) Endl.
- Tribulus terrestris var. cistoides (L.) Oliv.
International Common Names
- English: caltrop; Jamaica feverplant
- Spanish: tribulus
Local Common Names
- Australia: bendy-eye; bindii; bull's head; catshead; double gee; rock rose; yellow vine
- Kiribati: Te maukinikini
- Lesser Antilles: burnut; carpet weed; herbe soleil; herse; Jamaica buttercup; kill bukra; Kingston buttercup; Poupyé; Poupyé bòlanmè; Pourpier; Pourpier bord de mer; Turkey blossom; Zèb solèy
- USA: burnut
- USA/Hawaii: carpet weed; false puncture vine; nohonohu; nohu
- Venezuela: abrojo; flor amarilla
- TRBCI (Tribulus cistoides)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page The invasive potential of T. cistoides appears to be mainly determined by movement of the spiny fruits on farm machinery, livestock, vehicles (especially bicycles) and the clothes and shoes of humans. Due to the preference for growth in sandy, coastal habitats, invasion of similar habits in the tropics and sub-tropics is feasible through the spread of seed by ocean currents, a distribution mechanism hypothesized for its colonization of Hawaii. Florida's Exotic Pest Plant Council has rated T. cistoides as a category II weed, i.e. a species that has shown a potential to disrupt native plant communities but has not yet demonstrated disruption of natural Florida communities.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Geraniales
- Family: Zygophyllaceae
- Genus: Tribulus
- Species: Tribulus cistoides
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page Tribulus, a genus of about 12 species, is one of about 25 genera in the Zygophyllaceae family. Tribulus is from the Latin 'tribo', meaning 'to tear', and was the Latin name for 'caltrop', referring to the similarity in shape between the fruit of the plant and the spiked metal ball used in medieaval warfare as a weapon thrown under the feet of horses.
DescriptionTop of page T. cistoides is variously recorded as an annual or rarely biennial herb in East Africa (El Hadidi, 1985), a perennial or rarely annual in Mozambique (Exell et al., 1963) and a perennial in the Lesser Antilles (Fournet and Hammerton, 1991) and Australia (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992; Newbould, 1998). It has a well developed tap root and the stems tend to grow along the ground, forming mats 0.6 to 5 metres in diameter in Australia (Newbould, 1998) and of considerable size near the leeward coasts of Hawaii (Pope, 1968). The following description of T. cistoides is primarily based on that given by Exell et al. (1963) for Mozambique and El Hadidi (1985) for East Africa.
It is a diffusely procumbent herb, having stems that are pubescent (with spreading or appressed hairs) when young but often glabrescent (becoming glabrous when mature). The leaves are opposite and of unequal size, the larger up to 10 cm long with up to nine pairs of leaflets and the smaller up to 6 cm long with five pairs of leaflets. The leaflets are 2-7 mm long, obliquely oblong to obovate-oblong, rarely elliptic, usually obtuse and mucronate but also sometimes acute, silky pubescent beneath and pubescent or glabrous on the upper surface. Stipules are ovate-lanceolate, 5-8 mm long, 2 mm wide and subulate (awl-shaped). The flowers are solitary in the axils of smaller leaves, up to 20 mm across (30 mm or more according to Newbould (1998) and Holm et al. (1977)) and with pedicels 15-30 mm long. The five sepals are 5-12 mm long and deciduous. The five petals are bright yellow, broadly cuneate, 8-10 x 4-5 mm (or 20 x 10-20 mm in Mozambique). Stamens are 8-10 mm long in two whorls. The ovary is 1-2 mm in diameter and the style is conspicuous, elongated cylindrical, 2-4 mm long. The fruit is disc-shaped with a stalk 20-30 cm long. The fruit (sometimes referred to as a burr) breaks up into four or five wedge-shaped cocci (segments), each with two lateral spines 5-10 mm long and two basal spines 2 mm long. Each segment contains 1-4 seeds (Newbould, 1998).
Plant TypeTop of page Annual
DistributionTop of page It has a latitudinal range from 32°N to 22°S and grows mostly along tropical coasts (Holm et al., 1977). Fournet and Hammerton (1991) state that T. cistoides is pantropical.
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: 10 Jan 2020
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Cabo Verde||Present||Exell et al. (1963)|
|Eritrea||Present||CABI (Undated)||Original citation: Hadidi, 1985|
|Kenya||Present||CABI (Undated)||Original citation: Hadidi, 1985|
|Madagascar||Present||Holm et al. (1977); Missouri Botanical Garden (2003); CABI (Undated)|
|Mauritius||Present||Holm et al. (1977)|
|Mozambique||Present||Exell et al. (1963); CABI (Undated)|
|Tanzania||Present||CABI (Undated)||Original citation: Hadidi, 1985|
|-Zanzibar Island||Present||CABI (Undated)||Original citation: Hadidi, 1985|
|China||Present||CABI (Undated a)||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Hainan||Present||Missouri Botanical Garden (2003)|
|-Yunnan||Present||Missouri Botanical Garden (2003)|
|India||Present||Missouri Botanical Garden (2003)|
|Indonesia||Present||Holm et al. (1977)|
|Sri Lanka||Present||Missouri Botanical Garden (2003)|
|Taiwan||Present||Huang and Hsieh (1994); Missouri Botanical Garden (2003)|
|Anguilla||Present||Fournet and Hammerton (1991)|
|Antigua and Barbuda||Present||Fournet and Hammerton (1991)|
|Bahamas||Present||Bennett and Baranowski (1981)|
|Dominican Republic||Present||Holm et al. (1979); Missouri Botanical Garden (2003)|
|Grenada||Present||Fournet and Hammerton (1991)|
|Guatemala||Present||Missouri Botanical Garden (2003)|
|Honduras||Present||Missouri Botanical Garden (2003)|
|Jamaica||Present||Holm et al. (1977)|
|Martinique||Present||Fournet and Hammerton (1991)|
|Mexico||Present||Holm et al. (1977); Missouri Botanical Garden (2003)|
|Montserrat||Present||Fournet and Hammerton (1991)|
|Panama||Present||Missouri Botanical Garden (2003)|
|Puerto Rico||Present||Holm et al. (1977); USDA-NRCS (2002)|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||Present||Schotman (1989)|
|Trinidad and Tobago||Present||Fournet and Hammerton (1991)|
|U.S. Virgin Islands||Present||USDA-NRCS (2002)|
|United States||Present||Holm et al. (1979)|
|-Alabama||Present||Parsons and Cuthbertson (1992)|
|-Florida||Present||Invasive||Parsons and Cuthbertson (1992); USDA-NRCS (2002)|
|-Georgia||Present||Parsons and Cuthbertson (1992); USDA-NRCS (2002)|
|-Hawaii||Present||Parsons and Cuthbertson (1992); Wagner et al. (1999); USDA-NRCS (2002)|
|-Louisiana||Present||Parsons and Cuthbertson (1992); USDA-NRCS (2002)|
|-Mississippi||Present||Parsons and Cuthbertson (1992)|
|-Texas||Present||Parsons and Cuthbertson (1992); USDA-NRCS (2002)|
|Australia||Present||CABI (Undated a)||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-New South Wales||Present||Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney (2003)|
|-Northern Territory||Present, Widespread||Invasive||Parsons and Cuthbertson (1992); Newbould (1998); Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney (2003)|
|-Queensland||Present||Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney (2003)|
|-Western Australia||Present||Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney (2003)|
|Cook Islands||Present||McCormack (2002)|
|French Polynesia||Present||Welsh (1998)|
|Guam||Present||Stone (1970); Fosberg et al. (1979)|
|Kiribati||Present||Fosberg et al. (1979)|
|Marshall Islands||Present||Fosberg et al. (1979)|
|New Caledonia||Present||Smith (1985); Swarbrick (1997); Missouri Botanical Garden (2003)|
|Papua New Guinea||Present||Bourke et al. (1973); Smith (1985)|
|Bolivia||Present||Missouri Botanical Garden (2003)|
|Colombia||Present||Holm et al. (1977); Missouri Botanical Garden (2003)|
|Ecuador||Present||Missouri Botanical Garden (2003)|
|-Galapagos Islands||Present||Missouri Botanical Garden (2003)|
|Peru||Present||Missouri Botanical Garden (2003)|
|Venezuela||Present||Holm et al. (1977); Missouri Botanical Garden (2003)|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page T. cistoides is generally considered to be a native of tropical America and now occurs in many tropical and temperate regions (Newbould, 1998). El Hadidi (1985) claims that it was introduced to parts of America and western Asia. It is a weed of coastal areas of the USA from Texas to Georgia, and in Hawaii, Mauritius and Madagascar. In Australia, it is confined to Northern Territory (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). Fournet and Hammerton (1991) state that T. cistoides occurs on all islands in the Lesser Antilles except St Lucia, St Vincent and Barbados.
Risk of IntroductionTop of page T. cistoides may pose a risk in coastal regions of countries with a warm climate where it has not yet established. However, the principal means of introduction may be via oceanic currents rather than trade or transport.
HabitatTop of page T. cistoides is commonly found as a weed on sandy soils along coasts and also open places inland. It is found on roadsides, recreational areas and agricultural land. In Hawaii it occurs from sea level to 100 m altitude (Wagner et al., 1999), in eastern Africa up to 800 m or possibly 1200 m (El Hadidi, 1985) and in Bolivia up to 1300 m (Missouri Botanical Garden, 2003). In the Lesser Antilles, it is found on rendzinas, calcic phaeozems and sometimes chromic Vertisols (Fournet and Hammerton, 1991).
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial – Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Managed grasslands (grazing systems)||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Disturbed areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Rail / roadsides||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Urban / peri-urban areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Coastal areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page T. cistoides occurs as a weed of crops growing in sandy soils along the coasts of warm-climate countries. In the Lesser Antilles, this includes vegetables, root crops and sugarcane (Fournet and Hammerton, 1991).
Biology and EcologyTop of page T. cistoides reproduces by seeds (Holm et al., 1977). Honey bees (Apis mellifera) and solitary bees of the genera Agapostemon, Halictus and Lasioglossum have been observed collecting pollen from T. cistoides in Florida and are probably effective pollinators of this weed (Austin, 1972). The plant begins to flower and set seeds while only a few centimetres tall, continuing to do so throughout the year. It is known to flower from spring to fall in the sub-tropics and all year round in the tropics. Flowers open just after sunrise and close at sunset, lasting about two days. The plant's rapid growth allows it to form sizable radial patches very quickly (Holm et al., 1977).
Latitude/Altitude RangesTop of page
|Latitude North (°N)||Latitude South (°S)||Altitude Lower (m)||Altitude Upper (m)|
Air TemperatureTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit|
|Absolute minimum temperature (ºC)||10|
|Mean annual temperature (ºC)||20||30|
|Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC)||25||32|
|Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC)||14||25|
RainfallTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit||Description|
|Dry season duration||5||number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall|
|Mean annual rainfall||350||1000||mm; lower/upper limits|
Rainfall RegimeTop of page Summer
Soil TolerancesTop of page
Natural enemiesTop of page
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page The main natural enemiy of T. cistoides is Microlarinus lypriformis (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) which has proved to be a successful biocontrol agent in a number of countries, whereas the related M. lareynii has also proved effective. Both weevils were collected in the native range of T. terrestris in Italy and do not naturally occur in the native distribution of T. cistoides. In many countries, introduction was accidental although beneficial (Julien and Griffiths, 1998).
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page Natural Dispersal (Non-Biotic)
It is believed that oceanic dispersal is important, as seeds of T. cistoides are thought to have reached Hawaii by ocean currents (Holm et al., 1977).
Vector Transmission (Biotic)
The spiny fruits of T. cistoides are well equipped for dispersal from field to field by attaching to the fur and hides of wild and domestic animals. They are also dispersed on human clothes and footwear. The large and small spines on the fruit are arranged at different angles so that, no matter how the seed falls, one of the spines always points upward to meet the unwary foot, hoof or vehicle tyre (Holm et al., 1977).
The spiny fruits can be transported over some considerable distances because they are readily attached to the rubber tyres of farm machinery.
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Fisheries / aquaculture||None|
ImpactTop of page T. cistoides has been reported to be poisonous to livestock, especially sheep, in Australia (Gardner and Bennetts, 1956), Colombia and Venezuela (Blohm, 1962). It has been implicated in hepatogenic photosensitization in sheep, with mortality or sickness exceeding 90%, especially among young animals (Holm et al., 1977).
Threatened SpeciesTop of page
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page Invasiveness
- Invasive in its native range
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
- Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
- Negatively impacts agriculture
- Negatively impacts animal health
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Produces spines, thorns or burrs
UsesTop of page T. cistoides is used to treat malaria and infections of the kidney and bladder (Achenbach et al., 1994). In the Bahamas, T. cistoides is regarded as an attractive ornamental plant rather than as a weed of economic importance (Bennett and Baranowski, 1981). T. cistoides is used by Australian Aborigines as a cure for toothache by chewing the plant and holding it next to the tooth.
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page T. cistoides closely resembles T. terrestris but the latter is an annual herb with smaller flowers 7-15 mm in diameter and with smaller leaflets. It is sometimes as important a weed as T. terrestris. Much of the biology, economic impact and control are similar to those cited for T. terrestris. T. longipetalus Viv. (synonym T. alatus Del. nom. nud.), a weed of north Yemen, has winged fruits unlike the spiny fruits of T. cistoides. T. taiwanense T. C. Huang and T. H. Hsieh is distinguished from T. cistoides in Taiwan by the length of the pedicels and other morphological characters (Huang and Hsieh, 1994). T. zeyheri Sond. is an annual or biennial herb, sometimes confused with T. cistoides because of its large flowers and similar fruits. The limits of neither species are well defined and both should probably be regarded as infraspecific taxa of one species (Exell et al., 1963). Inland forms of T. cistoides in East Africa are difficult to distinguish from T. zeyheri (El Hadidi, 1985).
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.Introduction
Due to the similarities with T. terrestris, cultural, mechanical and chemical methods used effectively to control this species may also be suitable for controlling T. cistoides. See the control section of the datasheet on T. terrestris for further information.
Control of T. cistoides is difficult due to the long seed life and drought tolerance. Shallow cultivation to sever the taproot is effective in controlling large plants but it may stimulate the germination of seed (Newbould, 1998).
The application of a number of registered herbicides can provide residual and selective control of T. cistoides (Newbould, 1998). Numerous herbicides have proved effective for the control of T. terrestris which could also be considered suitable for controlling T. cistoides.
Following the release of the stem-and-crown-mining weevil Microlarinus lypriformis (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) in Hawaii and St. Kitts-Nevis for the control of T. cistoides, it was later recorded in Venezuela, Curaçao and Puerto Rico (Bennett, 1989). Successful control of T. cistoides by M. lypriformis is reported from Hawaii (Davis, 1972), Papua New Guinea (Bourke et al., 1973), USA (Maddox, 1976), St Kitts (Bennett, 1971) and elsewhere in the West Indies including the Bahamas and Jamaica (Maddox, 1976). The control by M. lypriformis in Hawaii has been particularly successful since its introduction in 1963 - it had destroyed all growth of T. cistoides on the island of Kauai within one year (Nakao, 1969). M. layeynii has also been introduced as a biological control agent against T. cistoides, although it has proved to be less effective than M. lypriformis (Julien and Griffiths, 1998).
ReferencesTop of page
Achenbach H, Hubner H, Brandt W, Reiter M, 1994. Cardioactive steroid saponins and other constituents from the aerial parts of Tribulus cistoides. Phytochemistry, 35(6):1527-1543
Austin DF, 1972. Interactions between Apis mellifera (Hymenoptera: Apidae) and Tribulus cistoides (Zygophyllaceae). Rhodora, 74(797):117-123; B
Bennett FD, 1971. Some recent successes in the field of biological control in the West Indies. Sociedad Entomologica del Peru: Proceedings of the First Latin-American Congress Entomology, Cuzco, Peru, 12th-18th April 1971.: Anales del Primer Congreso Latinoamericano de Entomologia Cusco, Peru, 12-18 de Abril 1971, 14:369-373
Blohm H, 1962. Poisonous Plants of Venezuela. Stuttgart, Germany: Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft GmbH
Bourke TV, Fenner TL, Stibick JNL, Baker GL, Hassan E, O'Sullivan DF, Li CS, 1973. Insect pest survey for the year ending 30th June, 1969. Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea: Entomology Branch, Department of Agriculture, Stock and Fisheries
Davis CJ, 1972. Recent introductions for biological control in Hawaii - 17. Proceedings of the Hawaiian Entomological Society, 21(2):187-190
El Hadidi N, 1985. Zygophyllaceae. In: Polhill RM, ed. Flora of Tropical East Africa. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: A. A. Balkema
Exell AW, Fernandes A, Wild H, 1963. Flora Zambesiaca, Vol. 2, Pt. 1. London, UK: Crown Agents for Overseas Governments and Administrations
Fosberg FR, Sachet MH, Oliver RL, 1979. A geographical checklist of the Micronesian dicotyledonae. Micronesica, 15:222
Gardner C, Bennetts H, 1956. The Toxic Plants of Western Australia. Perth, Australia: Periodicals Division, West Australian Newspaper
Julien MH, Griffiths MW, 1998. Biological control of weeds: a world catalogue of agents and their target weeds. Biological control of weeds: a world catalogue of agents and their target weeds., Ed. 4:x + 223 pp
McCormack G, 2002. Cook Islands Natural Heritage Project database. Cook Islands
Missouri Botanical Garden, 2003. VAScular Tropicos database. St. Louis, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden. http://mobot.mobot.org/W3T/Search/vast.html
Nakao H, 1966. Weed control in Hawaii. Proceedings of the 18th Annual California Weed Conference, San Jose, USA, 3-7
Newbould S, 1998. Caltrop (Tribulus cistoides). Agnote, Darwin, Australia, No. 582
Pope WT, 1968. Manual of wayside plants of Hawaii. Rutland, Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle Co
Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, 2003. Australia's Virtual Herbarium. Sydney, Australia: Royal Botanic Gardens. http://plantnet.rbgsyd.gov.au/cgi-bin/avh/avh.cgi
Smith AC, 1985. Flora Vitiensis nova: a new flora of Fiji. Lawai, Kauai, Hawaii, USA: National Tropical Botanic Gardens, 758 pp
Stone BC, 1970. The Flora of Guam. Micronesica, 6:1-659
Swarbrick JT, 1997. Weeds of the Pacific Islands. Technical paper No. 209. Noumea, New Caledonia: South Pacific Commission
USDA-NRCS, 2002. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.5. National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, USA. http://plants.usda.gov
Wagner WL, Herbst DR, Sohmer SH, 1999. Manual of the Flowering Plants of Hawaii, Revised ed. Honolulu, USA: University of Hawaii Press
Welsh SL, 1998. Flora Societensis: A summary revision of the flowering plants of the Society Islands. Orem, Utah, USA: E.P.S. Inc
Bourke T V, Fenner T L, Stibick J N L, Baker G L, Hassan E, O'Sullivan D F, Li C S, 1973. Insect pest survey for the year ending 30th June, 1969. In: Insect pest survey for the year ending 30th June, 1969. Port Moresby, Papua New, Entomology Branch, Department of Agriculture, Stock and Fisheries. Guinea: xii + 57 pp.
CABI, Undated. Compendium record. Wallingford, UK: CABI
CABI, Undated a. CABI Compendium: Status inferred from regional distribution. Wallingford, UK: CABI
CABI, Undated b. CABI Compendium: Status as determined by CABI editor. Wallingford, UK: CABI
Exell AW, Fernandes A, Wild H, 1963. (Flora Zambesiaca)., 2 (1) London, UK: Crown Agents for Overseas Governments and Administrations.
McCormack G, 2002. Cook Islands Natural Heritage Project database., Cook Islands:
Missouri Botanical Garden, 2003. Vascular Tropicos database., St. Louis, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden. http://mobot.mobot.org/W3T/Search/vast.html
Newbould S, 1998. Caltrop (Tribulus cistoides)., Darwin, Australia: Agnote.
Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, 2003. Australia's Virtual Herbarium., Sydney, Australia: Royal Botanic Gardens. http://plantnet.rbgsyd.gov.au/cgi-bin/avh/avh.cgi
Smith AC, 1985. Flora Vitiensis nova: a new flora of Fiji., Lawai, Kauai, Hawaii, USA: National Tropical Botanic Gardens. 758 pp.
Stone BC, 1970. The Flora of Guam. In: Micronesica, 6 1-659.
Swarbrick JT, 1997. Weeds of the Pacific Islands., 209 Noumea, New Caledonia, South Pacific Commission.
USDA-NRCS, 2002. The PLANTS Database. Greensboro, North Carolina, USA: National Plant Data Team. https://plants.sc.egov.usda.gov
Wagner WL, Herbst DR, Sohmer SH, 1999. Manual of the Flowering Plants of Hawaii, Revised ed., Honolulu, USA: University of Hawaii Press.
Welsh SL, 1998. Flora Societensis: A summary revision of the flowering plants of the Society Islands., Orem, Utah, USA: E.P.S. Inc.
Distribution MapsTop of page
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