Plants To Avoid On Your Walks: Burrs

This is a continuation from: Plants To Avoid On Your Walks

Burrs are seed pods covered with spines, often with tiny hooks.... Just like velcro (which was actually inspired by burrs) it catches and sticks in anything fuzzy ---for instance, a passing animal's coat, allowing it to hitch a ride and spread its seeds. It's a very successful strategy, and as a result, there are quite a number of burr plants across the world; here's a link to a list of the more common varieties:

Burr (fruit) from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I had a very long-haired Newfoundland when I was in college at Cornell in upstate NY, and when he stumbled into a patch of burrs ---oh boy! Hours of grooming. Here in California, we don't have as many burr plants, and the most common one is a plant called Burr Clover (Medicago polymorpha) that produces small, disk-shaped burrs that just love to wedge themselves into dogs' footpads, where they tangle in the fur and can be hard to remove. If your dog abruptly becomes lame, always check carefully between your their toes, both on top and on the bottom of the foot. I've stepped on clover burrs while barefoot myself; they are quite spiky!

The plant looks a lot like clover, and is easy to overlook, but if you know what to look for, there's still time to get it out of your yard before it sets its innumerable burrs. Here are some pictures I took on a recent walk:


There are small yellow flowers at this time of year, and immature burrs forming (pic. 1). Notice that while the leaves look like clover, they branch off from a common stalk, and the stalks can be traced back to a rosette springing from a central root (pic. 2). The stalks often snake through neighboring grass, and if you detangle them and trace them back to their root, you can often pull up large masses of the plant fairly easily. Left to its own devices, these plants can become quite large; here's a pic of a massive clump we passed recently: (pic. 3)


So now that you know what to look for, keep an eye out, and pull these pests up before they scatter lots of burrs!

View the previous post in this series:

Have a question for the Veterinarian? Use our Ask The Vet Form here.
This post was generously contributed by
Dr. Stanley of Housecall Of The Wild.