Medicinal (Cursed) Plant: Puncture Vine

This is truly a cursed little plant. You will most likely not see it before you “encounter” it. Then you will step on one of its hard little burrs. Then you will emit an obscenity, or a string of obscenities in response to your pain.

We did just that, and applied the monniker “Little Bastard” to these demonic plant productions until we learned to call them by their most common name “Puncture Vine”.

Puncture Vine (Tribulus terrestris) an invasive plant in the Caltrop family.

And puncture it does. Bicyclists have long rued this plant because it can actually puncture their bike tires. Imagine how it feels to your foot.

Its a stealthy little bugger too. It grows low to the ground, prostrate in fact, and does not stand out in the landscape. It can form large mats…all the while steadily producing its weapons.

A Sketch of the Burr Nut of the Puncture Vine (Magnified)

The seed pods (burrs) start out green, and turn woody and tan colored by the time they are ready to hitch a ride on your shoe, a tire, your pet’s foot, fur or feathers. They are as hard as as a piece of gravel, and they don’t crumble under pressure. A single plant can produce a million seeds.

Puncture Vine is in the  Caltrop family, and oh what a fitting name that is. A caltrop was a metal device placed on the ground with one spike up and used to slow advancing armies in times of medieval warfare. It is now used by the military to puncture self-healing tires.

A Contemporary Caltrop

The spine arrangement of the Puncture Vine burr nuts are artfully arranged by mother nature so that no matter how the fruit falls, at least one of the spines points up. She was surely in a dark mood that day.

Medicinal Benefits:

In Michael’s Moore’s Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West, he cites considerable research that supports treatment for elevated blood fats including cholesterols. It may also lessen the severity of arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis.

This plant has also long been promoted , particularly in Indian and Chinese medicine as a diuretic, tonic and aphrodisiac. Links to two relevant  PubMed articles are included in the resources section at the end of this post.

This plant goes by many names. Here are the ones I have come across: Puncture Vine, Puncturevine, Goat’s Head, Terror of the Earth, Little Caltrop, Bullhead, Burnut, Mexican Sandbur, Tackweed, Devil’s Thorn, Devil’s Weed, and Bindii.


USDA Page on Tribulus terrestris:

Negative correlation to testosterone increase:

Positive correlation to  androgen increase and nitric oxide release:


One thought on “Medicinal (Cursed) Plant: Puncture Vine”

  1. Oh this looks an awful lot like a monstrous little plant I ‘ran across’ in Idaho. You would think you can meander around bare-foot in the desert, I mean the ground certainly looks benign…but oh no, spiked little plants hide everywhere…

    Liked by 1 person

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