a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Goat's Head or Puncture Vine

Friday, May 26, 2006

Goat's Head or Puncture Vine

SUMMARY: In which Ellen muses about how she encountered the vile thorny weed known to some as "goat's head" and to others as "*#@%&!!".

Someone else's story of thorns in dogs' feet reminded me of how I learned about the malevolent entity known commonly as goat's heat or puncture vine (for those riding bicycles across it).

I learned the common name only about a year ago, when the proprietor of WAG out in Elk Grove was enlisting everyone to keep their eyes down for these monstrosities on his site. But I first became truly aware of them 5 years ago. I was driving back from an agility trial in southern california. It's a long drive for the dogs to be cooped up in the car, especially after being largely in their crates all weekend. At most rest stops, it's safe to have them only on leash because they're too close to traffic and other people. But this particular rest stop had a huge open field, mostly dirt, nothing growing in it but very low, ground-hugging weeds, and it was separate from the landscaped areas of the rest stop, and even better, it was surrounded on 3 sides by chain link fence. So I let my two dogs out, threw both their frisbees full force out into the field, and they took off after them like the blazes. And yet--by the time they had reached maybe 60 or 70 feet out, they had both ground to a halt, in obvious agony, looking as if they were trying to lift all four feet off the ground at the same time. My heart went into my throat and I ran out into the field to the nearest dog to see what was the matter.

Horrific multi-spiked thorns about 3/8" wide were wedged into all the pads of all four feet, and we were surrounded by them, so pulling them out there would do me no good, because the instant the dog's foot would go down, another thorn awaited. So I lifted my 35-pound Jake and carried him all the way across the field to the lawn, where I could pull the thorns from his feet, all the while telling Remington in a soothing voice to Stay where he was (not that he really wanted to move, but he was so obviously miserable). Then I went back out and carried my 55-pound Remington back to the lawn and dethorned him--and of course I had no gloves or any other way to protect my own fingers, so my fingers were miserable as well--and then carefully studied the d*** weeds so that I'd never make that mistake again! I felt terrible!

Since then, I've encountered those sons-of-guns in dry, open, low-growth areas out in the central valley and here in Santa Clara County as well.

For more information on what to look out for:
* Photo of the thorns embedded in a tire (scroll down to the photo)
* Photos of the plants, latin name tribulus terrestris
* More info on the plant's origins


  1. I hate these things- I got one in my foot, and there is some remaining in my foot. I cannot get it out!

    Watch carefully, you can accidentally track it into your house (which is what happened to me, I got out of bed and barb straight to the foot)

  2. Owwww, wow, that's got to hurt! Hope it comes out soon.