Quick Facts

Quick facts

  • Puncture Vine (Tribulus cistoides) is a low-growing herb with woody burrs as fruit.
  • It invades coastal dunes and sand areas, where it can form dense mats that may threaten native plant species.
  • It is also problematic in recreational areas as its spiny fruit can puncture footwear and bicycle tyres.
  • It can be controlled by hand-pulling, but its fast growth rate necessitates regular removal.

What Does It Look Like?

What is it?

Puncture Vine (Tribulus cistoides) is a coarsely hairy perennial (rarely annual) low-growing (prostrate) herb, forming mats 0.6–5 m in diameter. The stems are covered with upright to flattened hairs, becoming hairless with age. The leaves are opposite, compound (divided into leaflets), and are unequal in size. The larger leaves are up to 10 cm long with up to 9 pairs of leaflets. The smaller leaves are up to 6 cm long with up to 5 pairs of leaflets. The leaflets are 15–22 mm long, 10 mm wide, oblong to oblong-ovate (egg-shaped), occasionally elliptical in shape. The lower surfaces of the leaflets are densely covered with silky hairs. The upper surfaces may be hairy or hairless.

The flowers have 5 bright yellow petals, 19–38 mm wide, and are borne singly on stalks (pedicles) 1.8 cm long. The petals are bright yellow and 11–13 mm long. The fruit is a woody 'burr', about 7 mm long and 1.5 mm wide, which at maturity breaks into 4–5 wedge shaped segments, each with 2 short and 2 long spines. These segments contain 1–4 seeds each (Huang 2003; ALUKA 2007).

For further information and assistance with identification of Puncture Vine, contact the herbarium in your state or territory.

Flower colour


Growth form (weed type/habit)


Where it currently grows? Preferred habitat

Puncture Vine is mostly a weed of dry and warm coastal areas, occurring on sandy beaches and coastal dunes, rocky coasts, and plains (Coleman 1998; PIER 2007). It also occurs on disturbed sites such as roadsides and agricultural land (Smith 2002).

Are there similar species?

Puncture Vine is similar to Caltrop (Tribulus terrestris), which is naturalised in all mainland states of Australia (Smith 2002). The leaflets of Puncture Vine are 15–22 mm long, the petals are 11–13 mm long, and the burr is hairless, whereas the leaflets of Caltrop are 4–12 mm long, the petals are 3–5 mm long, and the burrs have a few hair-like bristles (Smith 2002; Huang 2003).

Puncture Vine (Tribulus cistoides) can also be referred to as Caltrop so care should be taken, when common names are used, to appropriately distinguish between these two Tribulus species.

Why Is It A Weed?

What are its impacts?

Native ecosystems: Puncture Vine is thought to be poisonous to livestock (Navie 2004). It can invade coastal dunes and sandy sites where it may threaten native plant species. It is also problematic in areas used for recreation as its spiny fruit can puncture footwear and bicycle tyres (Miami-Dade County 2008).

How does it spread?

Puncture Vine is entirely seed dispersed, and the spiny fruits are well adapted for long distance dispersal (Navie 2004). The fruit can be dispersed by attaching to the feet of animals and humans, by attaching to animal fur/wool, or by becoming stuck in vehicle and bicycle tyres (Smith 2002). The fruit can also contaminate agricultural produce (Navie 2004).

What is its history in Australia?

The artist with Banks and Solander on Cook's Voyage painted this species on Palm Island, Queensland and so it was presumably in Australia prior to European settlement (Barker 2008 pers. comm.).

How To Manage It?

Best practice management

Non-chemical control: Puncture Vine can be controlled by hand pulling and grubbing, but due to its fast life cycle (about 2 weeks to seed production), regular monitoring and removal may be necessary.

Chemical control: Spraying younger, mat-forming plants with herbicide is effective, but this control method is less effective for older plants (Northern Land Council 2006).

Please see the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority for chemical information http://www.apvma.gov.au 

Does it have a biological control agent?


When does it grow? (lifecycle/growth calendar)

Puncture Vine is a perennial (rarely annual) plant that flowers sporadically throughout the year (Navie 2004). It has a very quick life cycle, producing seeds as quickly as two weeks from flowering (Northern Land Council 2006).

Where Is It Found?

Which states and territories is it found?


What areas within states and territories is it found?

Puncture Vine is widespread in or near coastal areas in tropical regions of Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland, but is also recorded from some inland areas in these states. Its distribution has been underestimated in the past as it is often misidentified as T. terrestris (Navie 2004).

Where does it originate?

The origins and natural distribution of Puncture Vine are obscure. It was collected from the coast of north-eastern Queensland by botanists Banks and Solander on Cook's voyage in 1770. It occurs in coastal localities in Africa and the Americas (Barker 2008 pers. comm.).

National And State Weed Listings

Is it a Weed of National Significance (WONS)?


Where is it a declared weed?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the National Alert List for Environmental Weeds?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the Agricultural Sleeper List?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Names And Taxonomy

Main scientific name

Tribulus cistoides

Other scientific names (synonyms)?

  • Kallstroemia cistoides (L.) Endl.
  • Tribulus terrestris var. cistoides (L.) Oliv.
  • Tribulus occidentalis R.Br. (misapplied by Wilson, K.L. 1992, A new species and neotypification in Australian Tribulus (Zygophyllaceae). Telopea. 5(1): 25., p.p)
  • Tribulus terrestris L. (misapplied by Mueller, F.J.H. von 1862, The plants indigenous to the Colony of Victoria. 1: 99.)

Does it have other known common name(s)?

Caltrop, Bendy-eye, Bindii, Bull's Head, Catshead, Double Gee, Yellow Vine, Jamaican Feverplant

Blackberry – a community-driven approach in Victoria

Blackberry the weed (Rubus fruticosus aggregate) was first introduced to Australia by European settlers in the mid-1800s as a fruit. It was recognised as a weed by mid-1880s. Blackberry is a serious issue across Australia. It is estimated that blackberry infests approximately 8.8 million hectares of land at an estimated cost of $103 million in annual control and production losses.

Read Case Study