Southern sand bur season is here

I water the vegetable garden with soaker hoses, and the sandburs have thrived in the fence line. Makes it interesting when I go in there to harvest.

The grass is crunchy. Fires abound, and leaves are falling from the trees. Walking to get the mail at the end of the driveway has become an endurance test nearly worthy of the Olympics. We’ve been over 100F for awhile, but unlike last year, there are fewer days of hellish temperatures, and we’re seeing a gradual cool down.

Southern sandbur up close and personal. You can see why they hurt.

To add to our misery, It is also goat head or southern sandbur season. Get our your knives, boots and heavy duty gloves. It’s time to celebrate in the Sooner State. Yes,  Cenchrus echinatus L., the southern sandbur or goat head sticker, is making our lives even more miserable than the heat and drought combined. Add some smoke from the local fires, and it’s enough to make you throw your garden trowel in the compost pile while yelling, “I quit.”

Please don’t give up hope. Instead, attack. Let’s go get those sand burs before they reseed in our lawns.

I can see you. Skepticism covers your sweet face. Well, turn that frown upside down. Better weather is in the forecast, including . . . dare I say it? Rain!!! We have cool mornings to weed and hunt for stickers. Isn’t gardening fun???

These plants are very shallow rooted. Make me wonder why they survive our heat, but it also makes for easy removal. Take your knife and gently move in around the roots.

Seriously, if you do decide to join me on a sticker hunt, wear good, leather gloves and boots. Sandals are strictly off limits. Don’t ask me how I know this.

You want to grasp the plant at the base of its stems to avoid as many of the stickers as possible. As you can see, it has very few roots to grasp the soil.

Yes, I hear there are also nasty chemical ways to eradicate these weeds, but I just use a kitchen knife, hunting gear and plastic bags. In the evening, after I’ve sprayed on my bug repellent to ward off nasty West-Nile-carrying mosquitoes—yes, we have those too!–I grab my trusty knife and head outside. Gently, I reach beneath the seeds (sand burs) to the center of the plant and work my knife around the root ball. Again, gently, I hold it at the bottom and tug not breaking the roots.  Cenchrus echinatus L. is quite shallow rooted, and with a bit of practice, you can start removing the menace out of your grass. One year, Bill and I spent every evening outside together, and slowly, we eradicated it. However, with our pleasant weather, it has returned.

I note from the USDA Plant site that in Arizona and California, southern sand burs are listed as “prohibited noxious weeds.” Well, duh, no kidding.

Two questions that I pondered after reading:

1. How do those two states prohibit them?

2. Who the heck would import them anyway?

Just a little humor for your Monday morning. Hey, I’m here to help. I’m also going out to weed. May the force be with me.


  1. Laura OKC says:

    Now that it tis the season, I get to brush the outdoor kitty each evening amid the biting mosquitoes. And there doesn’t seem to be a day that at least two of the little burrs weren’t found. At least they are in the greenbelt not the yard. Since you are probably doing the same for your dogs burr hunting, my hat is off to you.

    At least this week the weather is somewhat cooler, now if the moisture will fall.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Laura, my puppies all have very short coats, and the burrs are one of the reasons why–that and the heat of course. I had a poor collie who suffered through thirteen seasons of heat and stickers. We used to shave her each summer. Yes, it was so nice, cool and overcast today. I loved it.

  2. Rose says:

    This is one weed we don’t have, thank goodness. We do have cockleburrs and burdock, which also have sticky burrs, however. If we don’t get them cut down in time, Sophie always manages to find them in the fall, and I spend hours pulling them out of her fur:( I hope the awful heat you’ve been having is finally letting up for you and the rainshowers are finding their way to Oklahoma.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      No rain showers for me yet, but it has definitely cooled off into the low 90s. We hear we will have highs of 80s by the end of the week. It couldn’t come too soon. We have another type of sticker that gets into my dogs coats too, but it’s minor. I don’t know about yours. Have a beautiful day Rose.

  3. commonweeder says:

    What a summer it has been. I hope by the time you get all those dangerous sand burs weeded out the cooling breezes and rains of autumn will begin arriving.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Me too Pat. Me too. It’s an ongoing fight. Hope your garden is doing well.

  4. Wahoo!! Dee I adore your garden optimism… Sharing this post wiht my blog’s FB friends tongiht. Yes, it has been a brutal month, and thigns are still crunchy, but the end is in siht!! And many weeks of happy gardening still remain between now and the holiday freeze. Yay!!

    Not so much *yay* for sandburs of course… We have them in excess here at the farm, and they can puncture a good mood in a flash. LOL Thanks for the knife tip!

    Take care!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Boy, the sandburs hate worse than almost anything. Thanks for the encouraging words, and thanks for the share on FB. I so appreciate it. Enjoy your day outdoors today. It looks like a good day for gardening.

  5. Dallas Garden Buzz says:

    Thank you for good instructions on how to get rid of this pesky weed. we have a bind weed invasion-achh!!

    Ann of

  6. Janet Mills says:

    I was recently told my a farm/garden supply in our town that there’s no point in doing chemicals for those prickly-type weeds, and of course we don’t like to do so anyway. I was told definitely not to burn them, since they pop and seeds go everywhere. He tells customers to go to a thrift store and buy a fuzzy, wooly blanket. He said to drag it on the ground behind the lawnmower, and the seed heads will stick to the blanket. Throw the blanket away in a trash bag, buy another, and keep going. Well, it puts some pretty funny pictures into my head, but if one has very many of the various kinds of sticky-type weeds, it might be worth a try! 🙂

    1. Now this sounds smart!!

    2. Dee Nash says:

      Well, isn’t that interesting. It might actually work. Thanks Janet.

  7. Ann says:

    When we were kids we had sandbur fights. We picked the stems and hurled them at each other. A real good hit was when the sandburs stuck on the back of your opponent’s shirt between the shoulder blades.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Oh dear Ann. You guys were tough little kids. We just tried to avoid them.

  8. I hate those sandburs. I remember them when we lived in Texas. You have a lot of ‘evils’ in your neck of the woods, starting with fire. Hope your weather breaks soon. Saw the weather map last night OKC- 104 degrees. UGH!!!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hey Janet, tough people settled here. That’s why you see those weathered faces in the dust bowl photos. That was in a ten-year drought. Let’s pray nothing like that happens again. As for the heat, it’s finally abated a bit. We are keeping our fingers and toes crossed.

  9. I have seen something similar around here on occasion, but it doesn’t seem to get in the garden. If it ever does, I now know to be vigilant.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Kathy, glad to help and glad they don’t get into your garden.

  10. Judy Wilson says:

    I had forgotton about the sandburs – selective memory I think. I remember getting into them every year when I was little – my dad was not good about pulling them as you are. Luckily they are not in the PNW – just blackberries.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Judy, yes, the horrible sandburs or goat heads as people call them locally. They are the pits. I have a confession . . . I don’t get them all either. Have a great day!

  11. Martha says:

    There were tons of those on our property when we moved here in ’99. Every time I saw one I pulled its head off and now, after a mere 12 years of removal, I rarely if ever see them anymore.

    There is always hope … as long as our persistence lasts. Combined with last summer’s heat and drough, this summer – heat and drought v.2 – has taken much of the joy out of my gardening spirits. Hoping the cooler weather and the forgetfulness that is injected into gardeners’ souls restores my gardening self.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Yeah Martha, it’s been another rough summer. I haven’t kept up with things like I should, but I’ve done all I reasonably could. I remind myself, it will all bounce back this fall and winter.

  12. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Isn’t that the truth…who would tranplant sand burs???? Ouch, hurts just to see a picture of them. We have them in our neighborhood but none in our garden..ever..yet. Poor Luna steps on them occasionally. She knows to come to me with her paw held up to get rid of them. I have had them in my socks before. OUCH…I hope you get some rain soon. We got a dash of rain this a.m. with some cooler weather. Yay!!!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Lisa, I’m so happy you got rain! Wonderful news. Poor Luna, and my poor dogs too. They actually pull the burrs out with their teeth. I garden without socks because they stick to my socks as I walk across the dead grass.

  13. My son has them in his yard and he is forever pulling them up. I have so many weeds I can’t identify them. 🙂

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Linda, you crack me up!

  14. Jeavonna Chapman says:

    Somebody somehow thought they were cute or more likely they came attached to a person, animal or car/truck. Bird seeding is also a good transport mechanism that defies laws and boundaries. If I could get a law pasted to ban Ailanthus it would be on eveery book ever printed. A Weed Warrior with a bad attitude about weeds.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      I’m a bad-attitude weed warrior too. I’m also a bad-attitude waterer this summer. Bring on the rain.

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