How To Kill Goat Heads Without Damaging Grass?

How to get rid of goat head weed
Goat heads (Tribulus Terrestris) is a weed that is native to the Mediterranean. It is hardy, prolific, fast-spreading, and present almost in every continent. This invasive species goes by several names, including caltrop, devil’s thorn, bindii, puncturevine and cat’s head.


In This Article:


Where is the Goat Head Weed Found?

Where is the Goat Head Weed Found
This weed is more prominent in drier climates and is widespread in the U.S. southwest and Rocky Mountain states.


Ideally, this plant prefers dry, well-drained and sandy areas. However, it grows well in gardens, yards, lawns, pastures and fields and in less favorable conditions like those at construction sites, roadsides, railroad tracks, etc.


Life Cycle of Goat Head Weed

Life Cycle of Goat Head Weed
Goat head weed usually germinates in the spring and summer. Generally, the seeds remain dormant in the first season. These germinate next spring, and the flowering begins within 3 weeks after that. This summer annual broadleaf usually flowers between April and October.


Once the flower blooms, the weed forms its infamous spiny fruits (seedpods), each consisting of five burrs with multiple spiny points.


Why is Goat Head Weed Harmful?

Goat Head Weed Harmful
This species can cause a lot of harm to its surroundings. If left unchecked, it will outcompete the native species of plants by smothering them, leading to a lack of diversity and economic loss for farmers, among other things. Since native flora and fauna support each other, the invasion of a foreign species can harm the entire local environment.


Its sharp points are what make goat head weeds a real menace. The seedpods can injure livestock and pets, flatten a bicycle tire, and even pierce through your foot! Moreover, the sticky burrs cling to various surfaces and passers-by, helping the seed to disperse quickly. These seeds can remain dormant for about 5 years before germinating!


These can end up damaging the mouth and digestive tract if ingested. Moreover, when consumed in large quantities, the leave and flowers of a goat head weed may prove to be toxic to livestock.


With deep taproots, amazing reseeding speed and the ability to grow in unfavorable conditions, goat heads are built to survive. However, it is quite possible to get rid of this nuisance for good with determination and patience.


Wondering how to get rid of goat heads in yard? We can help you out! Here are a few tried and tested methods that may help you rid your yards and gardens of goat heads.


How To Kill Goat Heads?

How To Kill Goat Heads
Want to steer clear of chemical-based solutions. Here’s how to kill them using natural methods.


Natural Methods

How to stop the goat head weed growth through mulching?

Mulching involves using a layer of external material (mulch) to cover the open surface of the ground. It can be practiced in the yard gardening, raised beds and even containers. One of the many benefits that mulching offers is arresting the growth of weeds by stopping their seeds from germinating.


You can use straws, woodchips, plastic, organic material, etc., for this purpose. Keep the layer at least 3 inches thick to keep away the invasive goat head weed.


How to get rid of goat heads permanently by manually picking them?

One of the most effective answers to how to kill goat heads weeds without harming your plants is by removing them manually, preferably before they start producing seeds.


Water the soil a few hours in advance before you get down to pulling out the weed, as this will help loosen it. Make sure to wear your gardening gloves for this task. While removing the goat head plant, use a twisting motion and then carefully and slowly pull the plant upwards.


You need to be extra careful to get out the whole woody taproot of the weed. Once removed, dispose of the goat head weed at once to make sure that the seed pods don’t fall off. Once you have pulled out and disposed of the weeds, sweep the ground or pat it with a carpet (the burrs will stick to it) to be certain.


Keep a watch on the growth of new weeds to take action before these do any real damage.


Can you remove goat head weeds permanently by burning them?

This method works best for large infestations over bigger areas. You can use a propane torch weeder to burn down the goat head weed. The burner will immediately destroy the plant as well as its seeds. It will save you from using harmful chemicals and does not involve a lot of physical effort (unlike manual pulling and raking).


Here are a few things you must know about how to kill goat heads weeds using this method.
Safety caution:

  • Since the weed can regrow from its roots, you may have to repeat the process several times to get rid of them for good.
  • You may follow with a weed root killer.
  • Check and follow your local laws on burning before going ahead with this method
  • The best time for this method is moist fall and winter.
  • Always have a ready-to-use watering hose when using a torch burner for tackling any mishaps.
  • Avoid using a torch burner when it’s windy.
  • Pre-water the boundary areas of your garden. This will aid in preventing the burning from getting away from you.


How to eliminate goat heads in yard using puncture vine weevils?

Here is another solution to how to get rid of goat heads naturally. Puncturevine weevils can also be effective in getting rid of goat heads. These can be divided into two categories-seed-feeding (Microlarinus lareynii) weevil and stem-feeding (Microlarinus lypriformis) weevil.


While the former helps get rid of the seed pod in the burr, the latter aims at the base of the plant and stunts its growth. For effective control, it is recommended that you use both. These can be procured from biological supply companies.


Here are a few things you must know about how to kill goat heads weeds using this method:

  • This method does not guarantee a very high rate of success.
  • It may not be ideal for high-wind locations.
  • The weevils do not survive well during the winter season.
  • Weevils are location sensitive. If you buy them from a store located too far from home, they may not survive in your area.
  • Biocontrol organisms thrive in areas where the host plant population is significant and supportive.
  • If not checked, these may end up harming your other plants.
  • Your extension agent can help you figure out whether this method will be effective in your area.


How to get rid of goat heads permanently using Epsom salt and vinegar?

Here’s how you can kill goat heads using an easy-to-follow DIY remedy. Add ½ cup Epsom salt and ½ cup of white vinegar to a gallon of water. Spray the mix thoroughly on the weeds or pour it over the goat heads so that it saturates the ground.


This method works because acidic vinegar is not ideal for the weed. This method may work well for a small area. However, it is not ideal for larger infestations. The efficiency of this method has mixed reviews.


How To Get Rid of Goat Heads Permanently Through Chemical Treatments

If you do not have the time to experiment with natural weed-killing methods, here is how to kill goat heads weeds.


Post-emergent herbicides, such as those containing 2, 4-D, glyphosate and dicamba, can also be highly effective in getting rid of goat heads.


You have to dilute the herbicide and use the solution onto the soil or the goat head plants.



  • While using herbicide, thoroughly read and follow the instructions written on the label.
  • Post-emergence herbicides do not affect seed pods.
  • Be very careful not to injure the other plants in the process.
  • Use a pre-emergent herbicide before germination to keep the plants from emerging. For better results, consider using pre-emergent herbicides, like those containing oryzalin and trifluralin, in late winter and throughout the spring.
  • Combine using weed killers with depriving the weeds of light. For this, cover the area with a tarp after using the herbicide.
  • Make sure not to overuse the herbicide.
  • To remove goat heads without killing grass, use selective herbicides that target specific weed species and do not harm other plants or grass. However, these may take a little longer to work.


You can also use residual weed killers for long-lasting control over this invasive plant. Pre-emergent weed killers will stop the seeds from germinating and can also be used for getting rid of a full-grown plant (but this may take some time).


Once the residual weed killer is sprayed, it will stay on the surface for months. This way, you can control the growth of goat heads for the whole season.


Expert Question Answers


1. How does goat’s head spread so quickly?

Ans. The fruits of the goat head weed are covered with sharp spines that enable it to spread everywhere. The plant can thrive in bad soil, has a deep taproot and reseeds at an alarming rate.


The seedpods and burrs are sticky and can easily cling to other surfaces, animals and passers-by. This is how the goat head seeds disperse themselves. The hardy plant produces anywhere between 200 to 5000 seeds per season.


2. What is the best weed killer for goat heads?

Ans. You can use Post-emergent herbicides which contain 2, 4-D, glyphosate and dicamba. These components are effective in getting rid of goat heads. You can also use pre-emergent herbicides containing oryzalin and trifluralin. Residual weed killers can be considered for long-lasting effects.


If you wonder how to get rid of goat heads without killing grass, selective herbicides work best without harming other plants or grass.


3. Will Vinegar Kill Goat Heads?

Ans. Using vinegar-based DIY methods to get rid of goat heads has mixed reviews. While vinegar will cause the weeds to wilt, a homemade remedy may not be enough to get rid of the root of the problem (literally!)


If you want to try vinegar-based remedies, go with horticultural vinegar that is capable of eating through the plant right down to its root. However, do not expect this method to work instantly. It may take a while for the goat heads to die. Moreover, there is a risk that the weeds may grow back later as the vinegar will not kill the seeds.


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Now that you know how to get rid of goat heads in yard, you must also know that simply getting rid of goat weed plants is not enough. This perennial plant will resprout until you get rid of the roots. You also need to ensure that the burrs are not carried all over your yard, further spreading the weed.


You need to stay vigilant throughout the year. Destroy the plants before they mature. You can also use pre-emergents to stop the new plants from sprouting in the spring. The battle may be a long and hard one. But with proper knowledge and tools, you can stop this menace from taking over your yard or garden. All the best!