There is a weed in my backyard that generates little brown balls with spikes on them. The balls are probably less than 1cm in diameter. See picture. spikey ball weed

Here are my questions:
1) What is the name of it?

2) How do I get rid of it?
{What are the recommended sprays or chemicals?}

3) Need sprays that are not harmful to dogs or cats.

The little balls are getting into the fur of dogs (including their paws) and the plush toys.

FYI: This plant is growing in: U.S.A, Southern California in the foothills of the Santa Ana mountain range (south Orange County).


4 Answers 4


It is burr-clover, in lawns you can control it with weed killing fertilizer (the kind I buy is OK for pets 24 hours after application). I mostly control it by hand removal, you have to make sure you get the whole root so moistening the ground helps


Check out Goathead, Tribulus terrestris in this PDF distributed by the University of Arizona. I think it fits, check against the photos in the pdf.

Control will be difficult since it is persistent and easily spread. It spreads by seed, so the key is to prevent it from going to seed and avoiding bringing seed into your yard. You can mechanically hoe off seedlings (learn to identify the plant at early seedling stage) and let them fry in the sun, or spot treat with a product per the advice from your friendly garden store who will be up to date with what you can legally use in your region. The spiky fruits attach easily to boot soles and car tires, so checking "visitors" at the gate does no harm.

Edit: also see previous question here.

  • I disagree. Jimmy Fix-it is spot on in his comment. Look at the photo above: the leaves are tripartite, not pinnately compound and the seeds show the typical "spiky coil" of burr clover.
    – Stephie
    Apr 16, 2017 at 21:53
  • Possible. However I don't see the tripartite leaves you mention in the photo. If they are clover-like then Jimmy is right. Would help a lot to see a clearer pic of a leaf or set of leaves. Apr 17, 2017 at 5:42
  • Look in the bottom right corner, both open and folded. But yes, the photo is very blurry.
    – Stephie
    Apr 17, 2017 at 6:57

It is bindi. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soliva_sessilis Primary control is removal of plants before the seedheads mature and drop off plant. Lawnmowing spreads the seeds. Chemical control is difficult as killing the plants leaves viable seeds to start new plants.


From your photo, it seems that the balls have spikes, not burrs. However, the leaves do look more clover-like than goats head leaves, which make it appear to be burr clover.

The determining test is: When the balls get larger, are they actual spikes that are capable of piercing your tennis shoe and are resistant to being removed?, .. or do they simply have a fuzzy, Velcro-like exterior that just grabs onto your socks?

If they can stick into your shoe or can puncture a bicycle tire, then it is definitely tribulus terrestris, also known as “goats head” and “puncture vine”.

If you want to know about this very serious weed, just look it up by the names I’ve given you above.

I started using glyphosate to control weeds in my yard about 10 years ago. I finally wised up and now just pull the worst weeds by hand, as much as I hate pulling weeds.

  • Hi Richard, theres too much rant. This site does not run like a forum. Its question and answers. Please see if you can improve it. Sep 10 at 7:40
  • I removed the very extensive discussion about glyphosate, because the question asks about identification and suitable ways of removal. Recommending manual weeding instead of using chemicals is fine and is an answer, the sources are not what the scientific community would consider neutral and reputable, but merely commercial.
    – Stephie
    Sep 10 at 14:52

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