How to Get Rid Of Goat Heads

Goat heads, also known as puncturevine, are persistent weeds that annually invade gardens and outdoor spaces. Their small, sharp thorns pose a significant nuisance, easily puncturing shoes, bicycle tires, and pet paws. In gardens and paths, these resilient weeds quickly become problematic, diminishing outdoor enjoyment and potentially causing harm to pets.

If you’ve struggled with these plants year after year, trying various ineffective methods to eradicate them, you’re not alone. In the following article, discover proven strategies to effectively eliminate goat heads from your environment.

By understanding their lifecycle and habitat preferences, you’ll gain the knowledge to implement lasting solutions and reclaim your outdoor spaces from these prickly invaders.

Goat Heads
Goat Heads
Scientific Name Tribulus terrestris
Common name Goat Heads Plant, Puncture Vine, Caltrop, Bullhead
Family Zygophyllaceae
Plant Type Annua
Height Up to 0.5 meters
Flower color Yellow
Fruit Type Bur with sharp spines
Habitat Arid and semi-arid regions
Toxicity Contains toxic compounds harmful to humans and livestock
Native Mediterranean region

 

How to Identify Goat Heads

Seedling Phase

When young, goat head weed resembles purslane and spotted spurge with small green leaves featuring grey undersides. Each leaf has a prominent midvein and a slightly indented tip.

Stems grow in a swirling pattern from a central taproot, keeping the plant compact, typically not exceeding a few inches in width.

Seedling Phase
Seedling Phase

 

Mature Plant Phase

As goat head weed matures, it typically grows flat on the ground but can stand upright in dense areas. Leaves may turn reddish-brown and become hairy.

Look for small leaves arranged in approximately seven pairs of leaflets. Stems can spread up to 1 meter wide from the taproot.

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Mature Plant Phase
Mature Plant Phase

 

Flowering Phase

During spring to fall, goat head weed produces bright yellow flowers with five petals, about the same width as its leaves. These flowers usually open in the morning.

Flowering Phase
Flowering Phase

 

Reproductive Phase

After flowering, goat head weed develops devil’s thorn-like spiny fruit that dries into thorny seed pods resembling goat heads. These pods spread easily, sticking to shoes, animal fur, and vehicle tires.

Its eeds can remain viable for up to five years, aiding widespread propagation.

Reproductive Phase
Reproductive Phase

 

How to Remove Goat Heads

Hand Pulling

Use gloves or a weeding tool to grip the base and extract the entire root system. This method is effective for small infestations, especially when the soil is moist, typically in early summer before seed pods develop.

Hand Pulling
Hand Pulling

 

Mowing or Hoeing

Use a lawnmower to cut plants before they produce seeds, ideally in late spring or early summer.

Alternatively, use a hoe to slice weeds at their base, best done on hot, dry days for easier soil turnover and removal. Proper disposal of weeds prevents seed spread.

Mowing or Hoeing
Mowing or Hoeing

 

Flamer Use

Employing a flamer is a natural method to eradicate goat head plants. This tool, powered by propane or gasoline, heats and destroys weeds at a cellular level.

Pass the flamer over sprouted weeds, then wait about three hours before removing the charred remains with a spade. Exercise caution to avoid flammable areas in your garden and check local regulations before use.

Flamer Use
Flamer Use

 

Natural Herbicides

Use chemical-free herbicides like citric acid, household vinegar (5-10% concentration), or garlic-based products directly on mature weeds.

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Ensure compliance with local regulations, particularly for stronger horticultural vinegars requiring registration.

Natural Herbicides
Natural Herbicides

 

Spray Herbicides

If natural methods prove ineffective, consider chemical herbicides. Choose between pre-emergent (oryzalin, pendimethalin) or post-emergent (glyphosate, 2,4-D, dicamba) types. Apply during the active growing season in spring and summer according to label instructions for best results.

 

How to Prevent Goat Heads Permanently

Mulch Application

Spread mulch in your garden after removing existing weeds. Use organic materials like straw or wood chips, or synthetic options such as landscape fabric.

Thoroughly cover soil to deprive goat heads of sunlight needed for growth, avoiding application over lawns to prevent harm to grass.

Mulch Application
Mulch Application

 

Seed Collection

Gather their seeds using a rake or a piece of carpet. Use a fine-toothed rake to collect the pods or press carpet onto the soil to catch seeds like Velcro.

Dispose of the collected seeds in a sturdy garbage bag to prevent them from germinating. Check clothing, shoes, and tools after gardening to prevent unintentional seed spread.

Seed Collection
Seed Collection

 

Competitive Planting

Plant competitive ground covers like grasses or clover after weed removal. These plants outcompete goat heads by occupying space and resources, effectively preventing re-infestation and promoting a robust plant community.

Competitive Planting
Competitive Planting

 

Pre-emergent Herbicide Application

Apply pre-emergent herbicides (oryzalin, benefin, trifluralin) in late winter or mid-spring to prevent goat head seeds from germinating and establishing. Evenly spray across your garden for effective inhibition before seeds become active in the soil.

 

Introduction of Weevils

Consider introducing weevils such as Microlarinus lareynii and M. lypriformis for long-term goat head control. These weevils naturally consume goat head seed pods, reducing plant reproduction.

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Consult biological control suppliers or agricultural authorities before releasing them. Use alongside other strategies for comprehensive management.

Introduction of Weevils
Introduction of Weevils

 

Eliminating goat head plants requires a multifaceted approach tailored to your garden’s needs. Whether through manual removal, natural herbicides, or biological controls, each method contributes to effective management.

Implement preventive measures to maintain long-term control and preserve your garden’s health.

How to Get Rid Of Goat Heads
How to Get Rid Of Goat Heads

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