Encyclopedia Article

Puncturevine                                            Tribulus terrestris L.

Family: Zygophyllaceae                                               
Life cycle: Annual
Native status: Introduced
Habitat: Waste areas, roadsides.            

General description: Relatively small, prostrate plant with compound leaves. Multiple stems develop from the crown, stems can reach lengths of 2-3 ft. Leaves are pinnately compound with 4 to 8 pairs of leaflets. Leaflets are ¼ - ½ in length, twice as long as wide, and densely pubescent. Flowers have 5 yellow petals, each petal approximately ¼” long. Fruit consists of 5 sections, each with hard, sharp spines. Each section contains 2 to 4 seed.

Key ID traits: Compound leaves with hairy leaflets, mat forming growth habit.

Similar species: Growth habit is similar to prostrate spurge and prostrate knotweed. However, the hairy leaflets and compound leaf are key distinguishing features.

Miscellaneous: Puncturevine is more common in the western part of the state, but is found throughout Iowa. The burs are notorious for causing flat tires on bikes when the plant grows along the edges of roads. Also known as goathead.

Puncturevine seedling with oblong cotyledons and compound leaves.

compound leaves and yellow flower
Compound leaves and yellow flower

five-part fruit with sharp spines
Five-part fruit with sharp spines

puncturevine prostrate growth habit
Puncturevine prostrate growth habit