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Sandspur can be a real pain.

Get Sandspur BEFORE They Get You!

Plagued by sandspur? Take action before they emerge!!
Collect sandspur burrs by dragging the area with cloth.

Thousands of burr collected on old bathrobe.

Pre-emergence herbicide can be an effective tool in controlling sandspur. Pre-emergent indicates the product should be in place before the seed germinates. We know air temperature, soil temperature and soil moisture influence germination.

By understanding the life cycle of Southern Sandbur (Cenchrus echinatus) and the Coast or Field Sandspur (C. spinifex)  we can better control this grass-like weed. Sandspur is an annual plant. It germinates from seed, grows and produces fruit (the burr) in one growing season.

Pre-emergence herbicide, used according to label recommendations, inhibits growth BEFORE you see above ground leaf. Follow label recommendations to incorporate and activate the product. Control is enhanced with irrigation or rainfall immediately following application. The chemical barrier must present in the soil before the seed comes up. Once leaves are present, a pre-emergent herbicide is not effective on that plant.

Each sand spur contain one to four seed

Nature’s way of distributing seed, burrs contain one to four seed.

Pre-emergence herbicide may be purchased at big box store and garden centers. Use products safe for your type turf according to label  recommendations. The following are listed by active ingredient and not brand name. These are safe for use on bahia grass, St. Augustine, centipede and Bermuda grass when used according to the label.
> Pendimethalin
> Bensulide
> Prodiamine
> Oryzalin
> Benefin + trifluarlin

“On those areas where turf is to be established (including sod and winter overseeded areas), most preemergence herbicides should not be used 2–4 months before planting. Otherwise, root damage and germination reduction of the turf seed may result.”   Electronic Data Information Source (EDIS) document ENH884, Revised April 2015.

Since sandspur seed do not germinate at the same time, reapply herbicide in 6-9 weeks. Herbicide may injure or kill ‘innocent bystanders’ such as shrubs and flowers. Therefore, follow label precautions.

What about using dolomite or lime? I’ve heard sandspur won’t grow if we sweeten the soil.

According to UF specialist and Extension agents, attempts to kill sandspur by liming or using dolomite is not effective. These burr were harvested beside a lime rock road.

Additionally, unless a soil analysis calls for it, application of lime could contribute to decline of warm season turf grass. Proper fertilization, irrigation and mowing heights may improve turf grass. Keeping grass healthy and vigorous is one of the best ways to crowd out sandspur.

Later this summer, dig/hoe/pull up sandspur plants. When mowing, keep burr within the contaminated area. Clean mowing equipment and prevent spreading burr to uncontaminated areas. Later this fall and winter, drag cloth/carpeting etc. across the area to collect burr. Burn or discard the cloth. This will reduce the seed bank. Easily accomplished in smaller areas, for larger patches, contact the extension office for recommendations.

What good are sandspur?

My friend has a burr infestation. She views it as a beneficial dog deterrent. She says her small dog stays out of that area, which borders a moderately trafficked road. Do you have a similar experience? Please share, I’d love to hear of it.

I am sure sandspur are here by design. One day we may understand their value. In the meantime, I need to purchase, apply and water-in some pre-emergence herbicide. For more information, visit University of Georgia for image and plant ID. Best wishes & Happy Gardening!

13 Comments on “Get Sandspur BEFORE They Get You!

  1. Thank you so much for your information regarding sandspurs. We have a serious problem in our backyard that we are sure is a result of having a lawn company that “free cut” our lawn all last summer while we were traveling. I am a big fan of bagging my grass cutting to reduce the spread of weeds although I see the advantage of leaving cuttings on the ground when the lawn is healthy. We will shop for weed killers that contain the products you listed. Wish us luck !

  2. Do you recommend this treatment for sand? I don’t have a grass lawn; I live at the beach and have a sandy lot with sea oats, briars, and sand spurs.

    • Hi BJ. An ocean view, framed by sea oats, sounds heavenly. I can see how a sandspur patch would diminish beach enjoyment. Unfortunately, a sandy lot is ideal for coastal sandbur. Lacking competition for available nutrients, water and light sandspur may spread unimpeded. However, its relatively shallow, fibrous roots will yield to digging or pulling. This is in your favor. Likewise, collecting burr this year means there will be fewer seed in the seed bank. All herbicides must be used in accordance with the label. Best of luck with controlling this sticky weed.

  3. Thank you. I’ve had pretty good success over the years pulling sandspur plants whenever I see them. I had a few get started in the lawn section of my five acre property and I’d forgotten about them due to my success of removing them as they seed in the fall. I recently committed to keeping an adjacent five acres mowed and was surprised my last mowing, late September, by several sandspur patches in full seed. I carefully mowed big circles around the patches and came back and removed the plants and seeds the best I could. This article gives me hope of having success. The last thing I want on my lot or the neighbors I maintain is sandspurs as I walk both properties morning and evening, mostly bare footed. I hadn’t thought of dragging carpet or cloth to collect the seed pods. It’s a great idea. I have been known to walk in my sock feet to collect seeds but carpet makes a lot more sense.

    • Hi James, May you enjoy many years of sandspur-free walks. Sounds like you are stepping in the right direction. Containing burr in an ever-diminishing area is a good idea. Easier to spot treat. Likewise, by mowing in clockwise pattern, blowing burr toward the center, will minimize spreading burr to uncontaminated areas. Wishing you good success!

  4. We have a country property that we visit from time to time. When we visited more frequently, we were able to keep the sandspurs under some control in the immediate area of the house. This year we did not visit as often so now the sandspurs have taken over. The area we try to control is at least a couple of acres — we have 15 acres so cannot control all. We had some success in the past by pulling and bagging the plants, but now they are so many that this would be very difficult to do. We would like to spread some sort of treatment now to kill off the plants. What would be the best way to do this so that we can get them under control again? We are Texas so the winters are quite mild.

    • Hi Mrs. Vick, We’ve got good news! Your local extension office as part of the Cooperative Extension System (CES), established with the Smith-Lever Act of 1914, provides research-based education to the public to improve their daily lives. The CES represents partnerships between the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and land-grant universities, such as University of Florida, across the United States. The fine folks of Gonzales County Extension office are a great resource for control recommendations in your area. Wish you all the best with that!

  5. Is there a known germination cycle based on temperatures?
    When is the best time in the life cycle to apply herbicide?
    Any ideas when sandspurs begin germination in South East GA
    near Brunswick?
    thanks, la

    • Good Morning Ms. Chancey,
      Thank you for choosing UF-Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF-IFAS) Extension, a trusted source of UF research based horticulture information. Yes, soil and air temperature play a key role in seed germination. As does soil moisture.

      Areas of Glynn County (Georgia) may experience micro-climates and greater potential for contamination of water bodies. In this situation, Glynn County Extension office would be the best source of herbicide application recommendations. Website: http://extension.uga.edu/county-offices/glynn.html Best of luck with sandspur control! Let me know how it goes.

  6. Could someone PLEASE provide a couple of pictures of sandspurs BEFORE they have spurs? I have searxyfor HOURS pleading for some visual reference to identify theses devilish weeds, but all I ever get are big pictures of tall weeds with many spurs, so obviously there’s no way to even pull them up by the roots when they are babies. Instead we have to wait until they are in full force. I suspect al these so called experts haven’t a clue either because they would have certainly provided a picture for the many requests. Even web search only provides pics of mature plants. Not even a verbal description.. Please prove me wrong ASAP. Grass is growing fast in fla and my cats paws are in awful shape thanks, Sally Castles

    • Good afternoon Ms. Castles,
      I am sorry to hear about kitty and the sandspur conflict. It is a painful situation.
      Two items of interest; if you are in north Florida, you may consider applying a pre-emergent herbicide, suitable for your warm season turf grass in the next few weeks. Follow the product label and apply in the area where you know the burr have been seen.

      Once seed germinates, new leaves do resemble a grass-like plant to the undiscerning eye. This is an publication with sheath and hairs described. Click HERE.

      Dr. Laura Griffeth, UGA has a few images HERE.
      Lastly, from Florida A&M, several images HERE.

      Ms. Castles, I hope this is of help. Please feel free to call with any questions.
      Sincerely yours,
      Barbara​

  7. Whats the best preemergince herbicide for Fort White area of florida which is sandy?

    • Good afternoon Mr. Alden! Congrats on thinking several months in advance. To be most effective, pre-emergent should be applied once soils warm and conditions become favorable for seed to germinate. Therefore timing is crucial and varies from year to year in your area.

      Based on the species of existing warm season turf grass, the herbicide label will indicate what may be safely used on your warm season turf grass. In addition, the label will indicate when to apply and at what rate. Follow the label, the label is the law.

      For specifics, your local contact is Erin Harlow, Horticulture Agent, UF IFAS Extension Columbia County (eeeck@ufl.edu). Good luck with that!!

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