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Weeds like Puncturevine can be undesirable in your yard and hard to control due to their wild-growing nature. They can invade your yard, crawl all over your plants, and ruin your beautiful-looking landscaping. Most gardeners would probably agree that puncturevine is a general nuisance, both visually and physically.

But, while these weeds are annoying, they have some uses you can take advantage of too. So, don’t throw them away after plucking them!

Keep reading to learn about puncturevine — how to identify and get rid of this weed, along with its potential uses!

The green frond-like vines and yellow flowers of puncturevine.

History of Puncturevine

While this weed is very common in the western side of the United States, it isn’t native to our country. Puncturevine, or goat’s head, is a broadleaf weed deriving from Europe and Asia, where the plant grows natively.

It was introduced to the United States by accident and most likely got here through imported sheep. Sheep wool is dense and picks up quite a bit of debris, and the spiky burs on the seed pods of Puncturevine can easily stick to anything. They most likely got lodged in the wool and fell off when the sheep arrived in this country.

The timeframe for this was sometime in the early 1900s, so this weed is relatively new to the United States.

Flock of white sheep.

How To Identify Puncturevine

You can identify Puncturevine easily, as it has a unique look pertaining to its leaflets. The weed grows very close to the ground and spreads like grass. You’ll see neatly organized leaflets within each stemmed section with about eight dark green, fuzzy, oval-shaped leaves. They almost look like tiny ferns!

You’ll also notice vibrant yellow flowers if you stumble upon this weed in the summer through the fall. Each flower has exactly five petals, and the diameter of each flower is about half an inch in size.

During the blooming season, you’ll also notice spiked seed pods called burs. They have a wood-like look, typically have about five spikes, and are half the size of the flowers. These pods are the most annoying part of the weed, as they can stick to skin, clothes, bike tires, and pets. This is where it gets its name, as it can puncture various materials.

Person with puncturevine

Why is Puncturevine Considered a Weed?

Puncture vine is in the category of annual weeds. It typically shows up in the summertime and lasts through the fall. Then it usually dies in the middle of the fall, around October. The weed can turn up the next year if any seed pods remain behind.

Weeds are generally wild plants that grow in and negatively affect human-inhabited areas. Puncturevine is generally a nuisance and invades livestock pastures, gardens, vineyards, sides of roads, pathways, and more.

Due to its possibility of causing injuries and taking over inhabited areas, it falls into the category of a weed.

Does Puncturevine Cause Any Issues?

Puncturevine has the power to cause plenty of damage to your plants and can even cause injuries.

Closeup of puncturevine burs when they're still green on the plant.

They leave spiked burs that get stuck to you and your pets, leaving you to pick them out one by one. The weed can cause injuries, and the plant contains toxins that can poison animals. Livestock populations can seriously suffer from ingesting these weeds.

Puncturevine also has a sizable root system that can spread beneath the ground and steal nutrients from nearby plants. Due to this, you might notice other plants in your yard suffering and dying off.

How Does Puncturevine Spread?

This weed variety mostly spreads through seed dispersal. The spiked seed pods typically attach to human skin, clothes, and furry animals. Once the seeds attach, you and the animals unknowingly bring them to other areas, allowing for new growth. Tires can also pick up these burs, which can fall off into new growth areas.

Besides physically moving the burs, they’ll shed onto the ground after the growing season. So, if the burs are still there by next summer, the weed will grow again.

How to Get Rid of Puncturevine

Puncturevine can be a tough weed to get rid of due to its taproot system. The roots can extend downward deeply into the ground below, making it difficult to rip up the entire root system. This is why you need to act quickly when you see signs of weed growth. You can attack this weed variety both naturally and with chemicals.

A field overrun with puncturevine.

Natural Ways to Get Rid of Puncturevine

If you’re not too keen on using chemical-based herbicides, your most natural option is physically removing the weeds. Sadly, this variety doesn’t react to natural or homemade weed killers.

You can pull the weeds out by hand but wear gloves due to the burs. However, it can be challenging if they are well into the growing season. You’ll need a lot of elbow grease. If hand-weeding doesn’t work out, you can use a hoe to dig them up. Just ensure you throw them in the trash afterward, as leaving them on the ground can lead to seed

Weed Killers

If all else fails, weed killers should do the trick at ridding your yard of Puncturevine. Try to look for weed killers that contain glyphosate, like Roundup, as it blocks vital growth enzymes. These weed killers will typically kill the plant and the root system.

Will Weed Killers Cause More Harm Than Good?

Glyphosate itself has a low level of toxicity to humans. But, if your pets ingest plants recently sprayed with it, they could have digestive issues. It can also harm other nearby plants if sprayed by accident.

While glyphosate isn’t detrimentally harmful to humans and pets, other chemicals within weed killers can be. It might be wise to wait up to 48 hours before touching the sprayed area.

Does Puncturevine Have Any Good Uses?

It might seem like this plant only causes harm, but it can have some helpful uses. In Chinese medicine, ingesting small amounts of the leaves can help with a whole list of health problems.

Benefits of Puncturevine

Puncturevine’s only good use is for medicinal purposes involving the weed leaves. The plant can help improve reproductive health, urinary health, and even heart disease. Chinese medicine also uses it to treat coughs, stomach issues, and eye problems. It is a gastrointestinal stimulant, so it can also act as a type of laxative.

However, you should always consult a doctor before ingesting this plant.


Closeup of a yellow flower on a puncturevine.

What is puncturevine’s life cycle?

Germination of this weed will typically happen in the middle of spring. Then the plant will grow at full force in the summertime. During the summer, flowers will start budding and blooming, and the burs will be present. Growth will continue until about October, when the plant dies off. So the growing season is roughly April through October.

Does puncturevine contain poisonous toxins?

Puncturevine contains saponins, which are naturally toxic compounds. However, humans don’t have a detrimental adverse reaction to ingesting these. They are actually in things like onions, beans, and quinoa.

But, these toxins can harm pets and wild animals, as their bodies react differently.

What bugs eat puncturevine?

Weevils, a type of beetle, will attack and eat puncturevine. The adults will usually eat the seeds, and the larvae will attack and eat the stems. These bugs won’t usually kill the plant thoroughly, but they can slow down the weed’s growth.

Wrapping Up Puncturevine

 Closeup of leaves and yellow flower of puncturevine.

Puncturevine can quickly take over, cause injuries with its burs, and cause gastrointestinal issues in animals. But, while it can cause quite a few problems and seem like a nuisance, it can also help your health. Consider using the leaves for medicinal purposes before ridding your yard of this weed completely.

If you feel like you need to learn more about these pesky garden tenants, check out our weeds page to learn all about different weed varieties, treatment options, and surprising information.