Longspine sandbur

Identification & Biology
Alias' : burgrass, field sandbur
Latin Name : Cenchrus longispinus
Category : Terrestrial Plants
Description :
  • Annual grass  
  • 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  
  • Leaves are light green 


Longspine sandbur reproduces entirely from seed. Germination begins in early 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. This ‘hitchhiking’ is the primary mechanism for dispersal of sandbur.  


In British Columbia, sandbur occurs only in the Okanagan Valley, as far north as Penticton, and there are very limited outbreaks in the lower Similkameen Valley (Keremeos). It prefers sandy or well-drained soils and readily invades disturbed ground. Sandbur typically infests vacant lots, gravel parking areas, roadsides and unpaved trails. More recently, this invader has moved onto agricultural lands, particularly where crops border roads, in sandy headlands, between crop rows and in other locations where there is limited vegetation to compete with the sandbur.

Impact & Risks
  • Spines on the seeds readily attach to footwear, clothing, animals, tires, machinery and supplies. The spines can injure the feet, hides, mouths, eyes and digestive tracts of livestock, and can also injure people. They are especially problematic to fruit pickers working in orchards and vineyards.  
Prevention & Mitigation

The most effective way to ensure that your lands do not become infested with longspine sandbur is by prevention. Here are some recommendations to prevent invasion on your property:  

  • Maintain your crops and natural lands in a healthy, vigorous condition to ensure a competitive plant community. 
  • Regularly patrol your property for longspine sandbur plants and immediately control or remove infestations before seed set.  
  • Cooperate with adjacent landowners and encourage them to prevent longspine sandbur spread. 
  • Immediately re-vegetate disturbed, bare soils with a suitable seed mixture that provides dense, early colonization to prevent weed invasion. 
  • Remove plants, plant parts, and seeds from personal gear, clothing, pets, vehicles, and equipment. Wash vehicles, including tires and undercarriage, and equipment at designated cleaning sites before leaving infested areas. 
  • Placement of bins, equipment and supplies is an essential part of reducing the spread of sandbur. Seeds can easily attach and be unknowingly transported from one location to another.  
  • Clearly mark locations for parking vehicles and machinery. Areas heavily infested with invasive plants should be considered “out of bounds” until measures are taken to remove or otherwise destroy the plants. 
  • Do not move contaminated soil.  
Treatment & Disposal
  • Hand removal or hoeing is effective for controlling small outbreaks. Shallow tilling (~2.5 cm deep) of young plants can be effective in larger areas.  
  • Deeper tilling is not recommended since this practice may bury seeds which will continue to germinate for several years afterwards.  
  • Mowing is not an effective method of control. 
  • If seeds are present, removed plants must be bagged and disposed of at the landfill. 
  • Chemical control is also an option. Before applying herbicides, read the label for full use and precautionary instructions.  
  • For further information on the selection and application of chemicals to protect your crop, contact AgriService BC at 1-888-221-7141 or email AgriServiceBC@gov.bc.ca. 
  • There are currently no biocontrol agents available for use for longspine sandbur in Canada.  


For additional information, check out OASISS’s factsheet on Puncturevine (PV) and Longspine Sandbur (LS) which provides identification, biology, and best management tips:

Okanagan Distribution

Priority Level Definitions

Watch For - Poses a significant threat (very high risk) and does NOT presently occur in the region OR is relatively new to the region and is very limited in extent.
High - High risk/impact; limited population with significant potential to spread in the region.
Medium - Medium risk/impact; limited distribution – broader population distribution with potential to spread further in a region.
Low - Low risk/impact; may be widespread or not, may be of concern in specific situations with certain high values – e.g. specific agriculture crops. Some species may be treated primarily with biological control agents.