Weed of the Month: Sandburs

Field Sandbur

Photo: Oklahoma State University

Common name: Sandburs
Scientific name: Cenchrus spinifex Cav. (field sandbur)
Cenchrus longispinus (Hack.) Fern (longspine sandbur)

Life Cycle: Annual
Origin: Native
Poisonous: No

Sandbur is the common name for several annual grasses that produce burs with multiple sharp spines. These grasses grow in pastures, landscape beds, gardens, fields, and roadsides. Field sandbur and longspine sandbur are the two most common species, whereas southern sandbur grows primarily in southern states. All are native to the Americas.

Sandburs are particularly problematic at maturity. Because of their sharp burs, they inhibit grazing of desirable grasses and make it difficult for horses to selectively graze around the sandbur. Sandburs are major weeds of bermudagrass hay fields. Infested hay is undesirable because the burs inhibit hay consumption.

Sandburs are annual plants with a fibrous root system that depend on the burs for reproduction (fruit is encased in the bur). Sandburs are easily spread because the burs stick to domestic and wild animals. Though not toxic, the burs can cause mechanical damage if horses consume them.

Sandburs are not easily controlled without killing desirable forage grasses. However, small patches can be removed by hand. Mowing usually is ineffective for controlling or preventing bur formation. Consult your local Cooperative Extension Service personnel for herbicidal control in your area.

William W. Witt, PhD, a retired researcher in the department of Plant and Soil Science at the University of Kentucky, provided this information.

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