Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Tribulus terrestris
(puncture vine)



Tribulus terrestris (puncture vine)


  • Last modified
  • 08 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Tribulus terrestris
  • Preferred Common Name
  • puncture vine
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • T. terrestris has spread widely throughout the tropics and sub-tropics from its centre of origin in the Mediterranean region. Distribution is aided by the spiny fruits which become attached to man and livestock.

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TitleFlowering plant
Flowering plantAgrEvo


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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

EPPO code

  • TRBTE (Tribulus terrestris)

Summary of Invasiveness

Top of page T. terrestris has spread widely throughout the tropics and sub-tropics from its centre of origin in the Mediterranean region. Distribution is aided by the spiny fruits which become attached to man and livestock.

Taxonomic Tree

Top 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 Nomenclature

Top of page Tribulus, a genus of about 12 species, is one of approximately 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 medieval warfare as a weapon thrown under the feet of horses; terrestris is Latin for 'of the earth' and refers to the plant's prostrate growth habit (Holm et al., 1977; Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). The taxonomy of species surrounding the T. terrestris complex is in need of a world revision (Barker, 1998).


Top of page T. terrestris is an annual (sometimes perennial in warm climates) herb with a long, slender, branched tap-root. The greenish-red stems are up to 2 m long, branched, radiating from a central axis and covered with fine hairs. Though usually prostrate, the stems become more erect in shade or when competing with other plants. Leaves, 3-7 cm long, are in opposite pairs with one of the pair slightly smaller than the other. Each leaf consists of three to eight pairs of opposite, oblong-lanceolate leaflets, each leaflet being 5 to 15 mm long and 3 to 5 mm wide. The upper surface of the leaflets is darker than the underside. Kranz anatomy is evident in cross sections of the leaves, indicating C4 metabolism. The joints as well as the axes of compound leaves can move in phototropic responses which, together with the C4 photosynthetic pathway, increase the efficiency of photosynthesis (Yang and Yu, 1981).

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 Type

Top of page Annual
Seed propagated


Top of page T. terrestris, a native of the Mediterranean region, is widespread throughout the world from latitudes 35°S to 47°N (Holm et al., 1977).

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


ChinaWidespreadWang, 1990
-ShandongPresentWu et al., 1996
IndiaPresentHolm et al., 1979
-GujaratPresentBarman and Mehta, 1989
-HaryanaPresentVerma & Jai-Prakash, 1977
-Indian PunjabPresentJosan et al., 1993
-KarnatakaPresentBoraiah and Gowda, 1981
-RajasthanPresentChandra, 1985; Singh et al., 2002
-Tamil NaduPresentSiviprakasam & Rabindra, 1997
-Uttar PradeshPresentBhatnagar et al., 2001
IndonesiaPresentHolm et al., 1979
IraqPresentTwaij et al., 1989
IsraelPresentGerling and Kugler, 1973
Korea, Republic ofPresentJeong et al., 2002
KuwaitPresentMorrison and Scott, 1996a
LebanonPresentEdgecombe, 1970
NepalPresentHolm et al., 1979
OmanPresentChaudhary et al., 1981
PakistanPresentMoinuddin, 1986; Mahmood, 1987; Rahmatullah et al., 2001
PhilippinesPresentHolm et al., 1979
Saudi ArabiaPresentChaudhary et al., 1981; Chaudhary and Akram, 1987
Sri LankaPresentvan Damme et al., 1994; Holm et al., 1979
TaiwanPresentHolm et al., 1979
ThailandPresentHolm et al., 1979
TurkeyPresentPohl et al., 1998
TurkmenistanPresentKaryeva, 1990
United Arab EmiratesPresentChaudhary et al., 1981
VietnamPresentHolm et al., 1979
YemenPresentChaudhary et al., 1981; Chaudhary and Revri, 1983; Al Kathiri, 1994


BeninPresentHutchinson and Dalziel, 1958
BotswanaPresentPhillips, 1991
CameroonPresentHutchinson and Dalziel, 1958
Congo Democratic RepublicPresentHolm et al., 1979
Côte d'IvoirePresentHolm et al., 1979
EgyptPresentTackholm, 1974
EthiopiaPresentStroud and Parker, 1989
GambiaPresentTerry, 1981
GhanaPresentHutchinson and Dalziel, 1958
KenyaPresentEl Hadidi, 1985; Terry and Michieka, 1987
LesothoPresentWells et al., 1986
MalawiPresentBanda and Morris, 1986
MaliPresentHutchinson and Dalziel, 1958
MauritaniaPresentLouveaux et al., 1998
MauritiusPresentHolm et al., 1979
MozambiquePresentLaunert, 1963
NamibiaPresentLaunert, 1963; Wells et al., 1986
NigerPresentHutchinson and Dalziel, 1958
NigeriaPresentHutchinson and Dalziel, 1958
RwandaPresentTerry and Michieka, 1987
SenegalPresentBerhaut, 1967
SomaliaPresentTerry and Michieka, 1987
South AfricaPresentHenderson and Anderson, 1966; Grabandt, 1985
SudanPresentBraun et al., 1991
SwazilandPresentWells et al., 1986
TanzaniaPresentEl Hadidi, 1985; Terry and Michieka, 1987
-ZanzibarPresentEl Hadidi, 1985
TogoPresentHutchinson and Dalziel, 1958
UgandaPresentEl Hadidi, 1985; Terry and Michieka, 1987
ZambiaPresentLaunert, 1963; Terry and Michieka, 1987
ZimbabwePresentDrummond, 1984

North America

MexicoPresentHolm et al., 1979; Servín-Villegas et al., 2001
USAPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-AlabamaPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-ArizonaPresentParker, 1972; Lorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-ArkansasPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-CaliforniaPresentRobbins et al., 1951; Lorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-ColoradoPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-ConnecticutPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-DelawarePresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-FloridaPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-GeorgiaPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-HawaiiPresentHolm et al., 1979
-IdahoPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-IllinoisPresentUniversity of Illinois, 1981; Lorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-IndianaPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-IowaPresentPammel, 1913; Lorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-KansasPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-KentuckyPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-LouisianaPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-MarylandPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-MississippiPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-MissouriPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-MontanaPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-NebraskaPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-NevadaPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-New JerseyPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-New MexicoPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-New YorkPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987; Lamont and Young, 2002
-North CarolinaPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-OhioPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-OklahomaPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-OregonPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-PennsylvaniaPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-Rhode IslandPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-South CarolinaPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-South DakotaPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-TennesseePresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-TexasPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-UtahPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-VirginiaPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-WashingtonPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-West VirginiaPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-WyomingPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987

Central America and Caribbean

BelizePresentHolm et al., 1979
Costa RicaPresentHolm et al., 1979
Dominican RepublicPresentHolm et al., 1979
GuadeloupePresentHolm et al., 1979
Puerto RicoPresentHolm et al., 1979
Trinidad and TobagoPresentHolm et al., 1979

South America

ArgentinaPresentMarzocca, 1979
BrazilPresentHolm et al., 1979
ColombiaPresentHolm et al., 1979
EcuadorPresentHolm et al., 1979
UruguayPresentMarzocca, 1979


AlbaniaPresentTutin, 1981
AustriaPresentTutin et al., 1968
BulgariaPresentTutin, 1981
Czechoslovakia (former)PresentTutin et al., 1968
FrancePresentTutin, 1981
GreecePresentHolm et al., 1977; Tutin, 1981
HungaryPresentTutin, 1981
ItalyPresentTutin, 1981; Viggiani, 2001
PortugalPresentTutin, 1981
RomaniaPresentTutin, 1981
SpainPresentTutin et al., 1968; Villarías and Moradillo García Tascon, 2000
Yugoslavia (former)PresentTutin, 1981


AustraliaPresentAuld and Medd, 1992; Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992
-Australian Northern TerritoryPresentParsons and Cuthbertson, 1992
-New South WalesPresentParsons and Cuthbertson, 1992
-QueenslandPresentParsons and Cuthbertson, 1992
-South AustraliaPresentParsons and Cuthbertson, 1992
-VictoriaPresentParsons and Cuthbertson, 1992
-Western AustraliaPresentParsons and Cuthbertson, 1992
FijiPresentHolm et al., 1979
New ZealandPresentHolm et al., 1979


Top of page 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).

Habitat List

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Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Protected agriculture (e.g. glasshouse production) Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Present, no further details
Managed forests, plantations and orchards 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
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural grasslands Present, no further details
Riverbanks Present, no further details
Deserts Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Coastal areas Present, no further details

Hosts/Species Affected

Top of page T. terrestris is a weed of a wide range of crops, including large- and small-grain cereals, legumes, tree crops, vegetables, pastures and ornamentals. Most crops are likely to be infested with T. terrestris when grown within the habitat range of this weed.

Biology and Ecology

Top of page Genetics

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.

Environmental requirements

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 Temperature

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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


Top of page
ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Mean annual rainfall3001500mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

Top of page Bimodal

Soil Tolerances

Top of page

Soil drainage

  • free

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • heavy
  • light
  • medium

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Aristotelia turbida Herbivore Fruits/pods
Ephysteris subdiminutella Herbivore Leaves
Microlarinus lareynii Herbivore Fruits/pods/Seeds
Microlarinus lypriformis Herbivore Seeds
Peronospora tribulina Pathogen
Tegostoma comparalis Herbivore Fruits/pods/Leaves

Notes on Natural Enemies

Top of page The importance of T. terrestris as a weed has led to searches for natural enemies in several countries. These searches have resulted in the discovery of Peronospera tribulina in Southern Africa (Scott, 1990); Ephysteris subdiminutella, Tegostoma comparalis and Eriophyes tribuli in India (Ramaseshiah, 1976; Sankaran and Ramaseshiah, 1981; Scott, 1990); Aristotelia turbida in Australia (Squires, 1979) and Microlarinus lareynii and M. lypriformis in Italy. The latter two species have been successful as biological control agents against T. terrestris in North America (Julien, 1992).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

Top of page Natural dispersal

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.

Agricultural practices

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 Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Land vehiclesFarm machinery, bicycles, road vehicles Yes
Plants or parts of plantsHay, straw Yes
Soil, sand and gravel Yes

Plant Trade

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Plant parts not known to carry the pest in trade/transport
Fruits (inc. pods)
Growing medium accompanying plants
Seedlings/Micropropagated plants
Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches
True seeds (inc. grain)

Wood Packaging

Top 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 Summary

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Animal/plant collections None
Animal/plant products Negative
Biodiversity (generally) None
Crop production Negative
Environment (generally) None
Fisheries / aquaculture None
Forestry production None
Human health None
Livestock production Negative
Native fauna None
Native flora None
Rare/protected species None
Tourism None
Trade/international relations None
Transport/travel None


Top of page Holm et al. (1977) record T. terrestris as a weed of 21 crops in 37 countries but recent literature indicate this to be an underestimate. In spite of its generally prostrate habit, T. terrestris is a serious competitor with crops, particularly in dry conditions where its ability to extract moisture from great depths is an advantage. In India, where T. terrestris is a dominant weed, 15-20% loss in pearl millet grain yield has been recorded (Holm et al., 1977). In the arid zone of India, where 4-9% of the surface of fields is covered with T. terrestris, the presence of the weed indicates overgrazing and declining soil fertility (Misra, 1962). It has been estimated that as many as 30% of maize fields in Punjab, India are infested with this weed (Adlakha, 1961). T. terrestris can also have an impact on crop production through interference with harvesting where the burrs are a nuisance to pickers in orchards, vineyards and market gardens. They can also contaminate harvested produce, particularly in the dried fruit industry (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992) and lucerne hay (Maddox and Andres, 1979). In its common habitat beside roads and footpaths, T. terrestris is well known for the discomfort it causes to bare-footed pedestrians and for puncturing bicycle tyres.

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 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 Invasiveness
  • 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
Impact outcomes
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Negatively impacts animal health
  • Negatively impacts tourism
  • Reduced amenity values
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition
  • Pest and disease transmission
  • Produces spines, thorns or burrs
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally


Top of page In India, T. terrestris is used in folk medicine as a tonic and diuretic, and for the treatment of painful urination, calculous affections and Bright's disease. Leaves are rich in calcium but poor in iron, providing a cheap supplement to rice diets (Ambusta, 1986). There are indications that T. terrestris may have potential as a treatment for urinary stones (Al Ali et al., 2003), Parkinson's disease (Badmaev, 2002), malignant melanoma (Bedir and Khan, 2000), liver and eye diseases (Li et al., 1998) and benign prostatic hyperplasia (Lokesh et al., 2001). There is some evidence that T. terrestris can improve male sexual function (Gauthaman et al., 2002) and the performance of athletes (Krcik, 2001). Care should be exercised in the use of T. terrestris because it contains poisons that can harm man. Comprehensive details of the medicinal value of T. terrestris are reviewed by Ross (2001).

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 List

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  • Pesticide
  • Poisonous to mammals

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Traditional/folklore

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

Top of page Tribulus cistoides closely resembles T. terrestris, however, it is a perennial, has larger flowers (often more than 3 cm wide) and larger 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 (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 Control

Top of page 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).

Chemical Control

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

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).


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