Dealing With Nature’s Hitchhikers: 9 Most Common Weeds With Burrs

Most Common Weeds With Burrs
Most Common Weeds With Burrs

Weeds can be more than just nuisances. In the world of these unwanted plants, some are true troublemakers, armed with tactics that make them a headache to deal with. One such tactic is producing burrs. Burrs are tiny, prickly hitchhikers that latch onto clothing and pet fur, spreading far and wide.

This article takes an in-depth look into the realm of most common weeds with burrs. We’ll uncover what makes them stand out and explore why these burr-bearing culprits pose such a challenge.

What Are Burrs?

Burrs are seed pods or fruits that have hooks, spines, or prickles on their surface. They can attach to the human clothing and fur, feathers, clothing, or skin of animals that come in contact with burrs. This way, they can hitchhike to new locations and spread their seeds. Burrs can also cause pain, irritation, injury, or infection to the host.

Burrs are a type of seed dispersal mechanism that plants have evolved to increase their chances of survival and reproduction. The hooks, spines, or prickles on the surface of burrs allow them to attach to passing animals or humans and be carried away from the parent plant.

This helps the plant spread its seeds over a wider area and increases the chances of the seeds finding a suitable place to germinate and grow. Some burrs are also designed to float on water, allowing them to be dispersed by rivers and streams.

How To Identify Burr Weeds?

How To Identify Burr Weeds?
How To Identify Burr Weeds?

Burr weeds can be easily recognized by their distinctive burrs, which vary in size, shape, color, and quantity depending on the specific plant species. These burrs come in a variety of forms, including round, oval, flat, and cylindrical shapes.

The burrs may feature an array of characteristics, such as long or short spines, as well as hooked or curved prickles. Their colors also vary, ranging from green, yellow, brown, to black, and some might even exhibit mottled or striped patterns. Additionally, the number of chambers can differ from burr to burr, with some having just one or two chambers and others featuring multiple segments.

Understanding the diverse types of burrs is essential for effective weed management in your garden.

Most Common Weeds With Burrs

There are many types of weeds that produce burrs, but some are more common than others. Here are 9 of the most common weeds with burrs that you may encounter in your lawn or garden:

Let’s discuss each weed with burrs in more detail.

1. Lawn Burweed

Weeds With Burrs - Lawn Burweed
Lawn Burweed (Image by Harry Rose from South West Rocks, cc)

Commonly referred to as spurweed, bindi weed, or stinging grass, lawn burweed is a low-growing annual weed that forms dense mats over delicate turf. Characterized by its small green leaves, divided into narrow segments similar to parsley, this weed bears tiny yellow flowers that blossom during spring.

A notable feature of lawn burweed is its production of small, green burrs equipped with sharp spines along their edges and tips. These burrs undergo a transformation, turning brown and becoming rigid as they mature. Unfortunately, stepping on these mature burrs with bare feet can cause intense pain due to their sharp spines.

Lawn burweed spread to many regions. This invasive plant thrives in damp, shaded areas and exhibits a surprising tolerance for low mowing heights.

2. Puncturevine

Weeds With Burrs - Puncturevine
Weeds With Burrs – Puncturevine

Puncturevine, known as goathead, caltrop, or devil’s thorn, is an annual broadleaf weed that spreads through its creeping stems, establishing roots at the nodes. Its growth pattern lends it a low profile, with opposite leaves divided into pairs of leaflets. The summer season sees the emergence of small yellow flowers, contributing to the visual appeal of this plant.

An intriguing aspect of puncturevine is the production of hard, spiny fruits. These fruits mature into segments, each harboring two sharp horns. These horns hold the capacity to puncture skin, tires, or even shoes.

Puncturevine has made its way to numerous corners of the world. This adaptable plant thrives particularly in dry and sandy soils, making its presence felt in disturbed areas such as roadsides, fields, and pastures. [1]

Effective management of puncturevine requires proactive measures. Application of herbicides before fruit formation can assist in control. Additionally, leveraging biological controls such as puncturevine weevils can reduce the spread of this weed. [2]

Pro Tip: While puncturevine weevils can be a potent remedy for addressing significant puncturevine infestations across larger acreages, their effectiveness may not be as high for smaller areas or minor infestations. Puncturevine weevils won’t entirely eradicate the weed. Instead, their presence can play a role in managing the puncturevine’s impact, promoting a more controlled environment.

3. Burr Medic

Weeds With Burrs - Burr Medic
Weeds With Burrs – Burr Medic

Recognized by various names such as bur clover or toothed medick, burr medic is an annual weed with a low growth habit, spreading through trailing stems that take root at their nodes. The plant is characterized by its trifoliate leaves, which are similar in appearance to those of clover. During the spring and summer seasons, the plant blooms with small yellow flowers, adding a touch of color to the landscape.

A notable trait of a burr medic is its production of oval green burrs, boasting hooked spines on their surface and with two elongated horns at their tips. These burrs change color as they mature, transitioning from green to brown. Upon maturation, they tend to cling to fur or clothing, which can be a nuisance.

Burr medic has been transported to numerous regions, including North America, Australia, and New Zealand. This adaptable plant demonstrates its resilience by thriving in diverse soils and climates. However, as annoying as this plant can be in a garden or lawn, it has the ability to fix nitrogen in the soil, contributing to soil health. [3]

Pro Tip: To effectively manage burr medic growth, mowing is a very effective strategy to reduce their spread.

4. Burdock

Weeds With Burrs - Burdock
Weeds With Burrs – Burdock

Burdock, distinguished by its generously sized heart-shaped leaves, is a biennial weed that reaches a height of approximately 6.6 feet (2 meters) during its second year of growth. The leaves of this weed are characterized by their hairy undersides and purple veins. As summer transitions to fall, burdock presents eye-catching purple flower heads that grace the plant.

An interesting feature of burdock is its production of round brown burrs, each adorned with hooked bristles and housing several seeds within. These burrs possess a remarkable ability to adhere to any surface they touch, making them a challenge to control.

Burdock has expanded its presence to a range of regions. This adaptable plant flourishes in various soil types, favoring both moist and fertile conditions. Impressively, burdock demonstrates a tolerance for both shaded and sunny environments. [4]

For effective management of burdock growth, consider proactive approaches. Application of herbicides before the formation of flower heads will aid in control. Alternatively, digging up the roots presents another strategy to mitigate its spread.

5. Fiddleneck

Weeds With Burrs - Fiddleneck
Weeds With Burrs – Fiddleneck

Often recognized as yellow burr weed or fireweed, fiddleneck is an annual weed that can reach heights up to 2.3 feet (0.7 meters). Its growth pattern showcases lance-shaped leaves, characterized by bristly hairs and veins tinted with shades of purple. Spring and summer bring forth a vibrant display of yellow flowers, which bloom along the stem tip, adding a touch of brightness to the landscape.

Distinctively, yellow burr weed produces egg-shaped green burrs with hooked spines on their surface, with two elongated horns at their tips. As these burrs mature, they transform from green to brown, eventually detaching effortlessly from the plant.

Fiddleneck has found its way to various regions, including Europe and Australia. This adaptable plant can thrive in dry and sandy soils, showing resilience against drought and wet conditions. [5]

To manage the growth of fiddleneck effectively, consider the application of herbicides before the flowers emerge. Additionally, options such as controlled burning or plowing present strategies for managing its spread.

6. Hedge Parsley

Weeds With Burrs - Hedge Parsley
Weeds With Burrs – Hedge Parsley

Hedge parsley, also known as spreading hedge parsley or devil’s nightcap, is a branched annual weed growing up to 3 feet (0.9 meters) tall. It has finely divided leaves that look like parsley and have bristly hairs. In summer and fall, it produces small white flowers in compound umbels at the tips of its stems.

A distinctive feature of hedge parsley is the production of oval green burrs, each with hooked spines on their surface and two long horns at their ends. These burrs turn brown when mature and tend to attach to fur or clothing, allowing the plant to spread its seeds to new locations.

Hedge parsley is native to Europe and Asia but has been introduced to other regions, such as North America and Australia. It can adapt to moist and shaded areas and invade woodlands, meadows, or gardens. [6]

7. Cocklebur

Weeds With Burrs - Cocklebur
Weeds With Burrs – Cocklebur

Recognized by names such as noogoora burr, clotbur, or large cocklebur, the cocklebur is a robust annual weed that can attain a height of up to 6.5 feet (2 meters). It has grapevine-like leaves with purple veins and a rough texture. The plant’s reproductive characteristics include separate male and female flowers on different plants, with the male flowers in short terminal branches and the female flowers in leaf axils.

Cocklebur weed produces hard, woody burrs. These burrs, with an egg-shaped profile, are densely covered with hooked spines accompanied by two elongated horns at their tips that can pierce animal and human skin. In addition, each burr houses one or two seeds.

Cocklebur weed has expanded its reach to many corners of the globe, including America, Africa, Asia, Europe, and Australia. This resilient plant demonstrates an ability to thrive in wet and disturbed environments, making appearances along riverbanks, ditches, and fields. [7]

8. Field Sandbur

Weeds With Burrs - Field Sandbur
Weeds With Burrs – Field Sandbur

Often recognized by alternate names like longspine sandbur, mat sandbur, or sandspur, the field sandbur is an annual grass. Its growth habit lends it a low stature, accompanied by flat or folded leaf blades characterized by rough edges and sheaths covered in fine hairs. Adding to its visual intrigue, the plant boasts seed heads, each crowned with a spike of burrs on the tips of its leaf blades.

The burrs, displaying a range of hues from green to brown, are distinguished by rows of long spines along their outer edges. The tenacity of these spines allows them to readily pierce skin or clothing, resulting in an unpleasant sensation upon contact.

While its origins lie in tropical and subtropical regions, the field sandbur has extended its influence to temperate areas, including North America and Europe. This adaptable plant demonstrates an aptitude for thriving in poor, sandy soils, showing a commendable resilience against high temperatures and salinity. [8]

9. Devil’s Beggartick

Weeds With Burrs - Devils Beggartick
Weeds With Burrs – Devils Beggartick

Also recognized as sticktight, devil’s pitchfork, or beggar’s tick, devil’s beggartick is an annual weed, often reaching heights up to 4.3 feet (1.3 meters). It has opposite leaves divided into three to five leaflets, each displaying toothed margins. During the summer and fall seasons, it produces yellow flower heads, forming clusters at the stem tips.

An exceptional feature of sticktight is its production of flat black seeds, each equipped with two barbed awns at one end. These seeds have an uncanny ability to adhere to fur or clothing, which is challenging to remove upon contact.

While this weed originated in North America, devil’s beggartick has expanded its presence to other corners of the globe, including Europe and Asia. This adaptable plant has a tendency to flourish in wet, shaded environments infiltrating woodlands, meadows, and gardens. [9]

What Are The Dangers Of Burrs For Humans And Animals?

Burrs are small, prickly, seed-bearing structures that can get attached to clothes, skin, or animal fur. They are produced by various types of weeds that grow in different environments.

Burrs are not only annoying but also can be dangerous in some cases. They can cause various problems for you, your animals, and your lawn. Let us discuss each problem in more detail.

Burrs Can Damage Shoes And Clothing 

Burrs Can Damage Shoes And Clothing
Burrs Can Damage Shoes And Clothing

When you walk or work in infested areas, burrs can attach to your clothing and shoes. They can be hard to remove and damage the fabric or the material by tearing, ripping, or puncturing it.

They can also cause discomfort or pain when they prick your skin through your clothes. Some burrs can even stain your clothes with their sap or dye.

Burrs Can Get Stuck In Animal Fur And Human Skin

When your pets or livestock roam or graze in infested areas, burrs can get stuck in their fur, skin, paws, or hoves. They can cause tangling or knotting of the hair, which can be painful to your pets. Also, it can reduce the quality and value of the wool or fur of your livestock.

They can also cause irritation, inflammation, infection, or injury to the skin, especially if they break the skin barrier or get embedded in the flesh.

Burrs Can Get Stuck In Animal Mouth

Burrs can also get stuck in the mouth of your pets or livestock when they eat or chew on these plants. They can cause discomfort, pain, or bleeding in the mouth, tongue, gums, teeth, or throat. They can also interfere with swallowing or breathing.

Burrs Contain Seeds That Will Grow Into New Weeds

Another danger of burrs is that they contain seeds that can germinate and grow into new weeds when they fall off. This way, they can spread their population and invade new areas. Some burrs can remain viable for a long time and germinate under favorable conditions.

Burrs Can Contaminate Your Hay Or Forage

If you have livestock or horses that feed on hay or forage from your lawn, burrs can contaminate your feed. They can reduce the quality and palatability of your feed by making it less desirable for animals to eat.

They can also cause health problems for animals that ingest them, such as digestive disorders, mouth injuries, or internal damage. Some burrs may also carry diseases or parasites that can infect your animals.

Are Burrs Harmful To Your Lawn?

A lawn is a valuable asset that can enhance the beauty and value of your property. However, maintaining a lawn can be challenging, especially when dealing with weeds that produce burrs.

Weeds with burrs can grow and spread rapidly in your lawn, competing with your grass for nutrients, water, and space. They can also create unsightly patches of bare soil or dead grass where they grow, reducing the quality and appearance of your lawn. Burrs can lower the value of your property by making it look unkempt and neglected.

How To Control Weeds With Burrs And Protect Your Garden And Lawn?

How To Control Burrs And Protect Your Garden And Lawn?
How To Control Burrs And Protect Your Garden And Lawn?

To prevent burrs from damaging your lawn, take the following steps to control them:

Improving Your Soil Quality

Improving soil quality is one of the best ways to prevent burrs from growing in your lawn. You can do this by adding organic matter, such as compost or manure. This will improve your soil’s fertility and moisture retention. Also, aerate your soil to reduce compaction and improve drainage.

Improving your soil quality will make your lawn thicker and healthier, suffocating the weeds with burrs and preventing them from getting enough light and nutrients.

Mowing Your Lawn Regularly

Another way to prevent weeds with burrs from growing in your lawn is to mow your lawn regularly. This will help keep your grass healthy and dense, preventing weeds from getting enough sunlight and space to grow.

Keep your mower blades sharp and clean to avoid spreading seeds that are inside the burrs. By mowing your lawn regularly, you will cut off the weed flowers before they mature into burrs and disperse the seeds. This will reduce the chances of new infestations.

Applying Herbicides

If weeds with burrs have already infested your lawn, you may need to apply herbicides to kill them. You should choose a herbicide that is effective against the type of weed that produces burrs and is safe for your grass.

Also, follow the instructions on the label carefully and wear protective gear when applying herbicides. Applying herbicides will destroy these weeds and their roots, preventing them from regrowing and spreading.

Removing Burrs Manually

If you have only a few weeds with burrs in your lawn, you may be able to remove them manually. You should wear gloves and use a tool, such as a rake or a hoe, to pull out these weeds.

Also, dispose of them properly by burning them or putting them in a sealed bag. Removing burrs manually, will eliminate the source of the problem and prevent the seeds from germinating.

Most Common Weeds With Burrs Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Most Common Weeds With Burrs FAQs
Most Common Weeds With Burrs FAQs

How Do Burrs Attach To Clothing And Fur?

Burrs have hooks or spines on their surface designed to catch onto the fibers of clothing or fur. These hooks or spines are usually curved, barbed, or serrated, which makes them difficult to detach.

When an animal or a person moves through the weeds that produce burrs, the burrs are pulled loose from the plants and attach to the clothing or fur. As the animal or person moves away from the area, the burrs are carried along with them, allowing the plant to disperse its seeds and propagate in new locations.

How Can I Remove Burrs From My Clothing And Fur?

There are a few ways to remove burrs from clothing and fur, depending on the type and size of the burrs and the material of the clothing or fur. Some of the methods you can try are:

  • Using a pair of tweezers carefully pluck the burrs out one by one. This method is suitable for small or soft burrs that are not too deeply embedded in the clothing or fur.
  • Using a stiff brush brush the burrs out in the direction of the fibers. This method suits large or hard burrs loosely attached to the clothing or fur.
  • Using a comb, comb the burrs out of the fur. This method is suitable for removing burrs from animal fur, such as dogs or cats. You should be gentle and patient when combing the fur, as it may cause discomfort or pain to the animal.
  • Using a sticky tape or a lint roller roll over the clothing or fur and pick up the burrs. This method is suitable for removing burrs from delicate or synthetic fabrics that may be damaged by other methods.
  • Using a damp cloth or a sponge dab the clothing or fur and soften the burrs. This method is suitable for removing burrs that have some moisture content, such as cocklebur or sandbur. The water can help soften and loosen the hooks or spines of the burrs and make them easier to remove.

How Do You Kill Weeds With Burrs Naturally?

How Do You Kill Burr Weeds Naturally?
How Do You Kill Weeds With Burrs Naturally?

Weeds with burrs are annoying and prickly plants that can infest your lawn or garden. If you want to get rid of these weeds naturally, without using chemicals or herbicides, you can try some of these methods:

  • Hot water: You can kill weeds with burrs by pouring hot water over them. This will scald and destroy them immediately. This method is suitable for small areas or individual weeds.
  • Vinegar: You can use vinegar to spray on weeds with burrs. This will lower their pH level and make them wilt and die. This method is effective for young weeds or annuals.
  • Salt: You can use sodium chloride (the common salt), to sprinkle on weeds with burrs. It will dehydrate and prevent them from absorbing water and nutrients. This method is suitable for areas where you do not want any plants to grow, such as driveways or sidewalks.
  • Corn gluten meal: You can use corn gluten meal, which is a by-product of corn processing, to spread on the soil. This will inhibit weeds with burrs seed germination and growth. This method is a pre-emergent treatment that should be applied before the weeds emerge, as it will not eliminate existing weeds.

The natural methods, such as hot water, vinegar, salt, and corn gluten meal, are not selective. This means they can affect any plant they come in contact with, not just weeds with burrs. Therefore, if you use these methods, you may also damage the plants you want to keep in your lawn or garden, such as grass, flowers, or vegetables.

To avoid damaging desired plants, you should apply these methods selectively and precisely. This means you should only target weeds with burrs and avoid spraying or spreading the natural substances on the plants you want to preserve.

Pro Tip: Use a shield or a barrier to protect your plants from natural substances. For example, you can use a cardboard or a plastic sheet to cover plants while you spray vinegar on the weeds with burrs. This way, you can kill weeds with burrs naturally without harming your plants.

Weeds With Burrs: Conclusion

Weeds with burrs are common problems in lawns and gardens. They can reduce the quality and appearance of your turf, interfere with mowing or trimming, injure you or your pets, and contaminate your hay or forage.

To control these weeds, you need to correctly identify them by their distinctive burrs and their leaves, stems, flowers, and fruits. Depending on the situation and the species involved, you can use mechanical, cultural, biological, or chemical methods to prevent or reduce their growth and spread.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article about weeds with burrs. If you like reading this, check out similar articles in our Garden Weeds section.

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