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Longspine sandbur plant
  • Annual grass with sharp, spiny burs

  • Introduced from the subtropical regions of North America

Longspine sandbur

Longspine sandbur

(Cenchrus longispinus)

Quick Identification

  • Sharp, spiny burs

  • Leaf sheaths are flattened, very loose, and have a tuft of short hairs where they join the blade

  • Blades are a light pink or green at the stalk

  • Stems grow upright or flat along the ground

Burs attach to cloths, fur and skin.  They can cause injury to paws, mouths, hides and digestive tracts and inhibit work in vineyards and orchards.

Longspine sandbur may be controlled by shallow tillage, hoeing or hand pulling. Repeated mowing every 3 weeks in the spring and summer will reduce seed production. Plants are difficult to identify prior to seed production. Bag and dispose of seeds in a landfill.

As a grass it does not have flowers but it does have an inflorescence that produces seeds.

Leaves & Stems
Stems (0.25-0.75 m) typically grow upright, but can branch and spread flat along the ground. Leaf sheaths are flattened, very loose, and have a tuft of short hairs where they join the blade.

Preferred Habitat
Longspine sandbur prefers sandy soils and disturbed sites at low elevations. It does well in hot, dry conditions.

Longspine sandbur landscape photo credit BISS.JPG

Small shallow, fibrous root system.

Reproduction & Dispersal
Spreads only by seed. Seeds can stay viable in the seed bank for around 3 years.


Seeds are round and spiky (4-6 mm wide).  Longspine sandbur reproduces entirely from seed. Germination begins in spring and continues throughout the summer. Seeds begin to develop near the beginning of July.

The spiky burs readily hook on to human clothing and animal fur. Since it only spreads by seed preventing seed production for at least 3 years is needed to control an infestation.

Interesting Facts
The burs are so sharp they can pin a leather glove to your finger and puncture bike tires.

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