Until you’ve stepped on a goathead, you’ve never really experienced agony of da feet. However, if you’ve spent any amount of time in the American southwest, odds are that you’ve stepped on one of these seedpods from hell barefoot, or had one jab you through your shoe, punctured a bicycle tire, or had the misfortune of having gotten one stuck under your fingernail.
Also commonly called Texas Sandburs, bull’s head and caltrop, goatheads are the product of the Puncturevine (or Tribulus terrestris L. for all you braniac Latinheads). First reported in the United States just over 100 years ago, it is believed that the seedpods of the puncturevine were transported from the Mediterranean area as stowaways in imported sheep wool. Stranger things have happened.
This weed is extremely dangerous to livestock, but that really doesn’t impact my garden since the only critters I have in any large number this spring are grasshoppers. Eliminating puncturevines from my yard has been the highest priority since I began working my small urban plot a couple/few years ago. These weeds are so annoying, that I also watch for them on both sides of the alley as they approach my zone of defense. I will drop any task I am doing to grab a puncturevine by the taproot and either toss it into a fire, or into the trashcan. Believe it or not, I am of the opinion that one would find worse things in the city landfill than these monsters.
As I prepared to snap these photographs, I began wondering if perhaps my hatred of these weeds was unique or somehow “over-the-top”- given the fact that I see them all over the city and no one seems to be trying to do anything about them. Imagine my surprise while conducting a little interweb research, to discover someone who hates goatheads as much as I do! Such an informative website, and I admit that I am intrigued by this idea of their Puncturevine Weevils.
The notion that these nasty seeds can remain viable for up to two decades while lying in wait for the proper conditions to germinate is baffling to say the least. Although I do believe I can control the weeds in my yard by staying on top of it, deploying a small army of seed and vine munching grubs in the alley might prove a worthy battle plan- assuming, of course, that the larvae do not mutate into strawberry eating weevils. Unfortunately, the high price of the weevils may force me to approach the board of our neighborhood association to see if they will provide some funds.
As an interesting digression, I’ve also learned that “Waiting on a Friend,” one of my favorite Rolling Stones songs that appeared on the Tattoo You album in the early 80s, was in fact, an outtake from the Goats Head Soup album that was released in 1973- on the 70th anniversary of the first reported finding of the puncturevine in the United States. Who knows… perhaps the “friend” Mick and the boys were waiting on was a puncturevine weevil.