Tribulus terrestris L.

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Tribulus terrestris

Photo: Bart Wursten
Fuel Station, Rumphi.

Tribulus terrestris

Photo: Bart Wursten
Fuel Station, Rumphi.

Tribulus terrestris

Photo: Bart Wursten
Fuel Station, Rumphi.

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Species details: Click on each item to see an explanation of that item (Note: opens a new window)

Common names: Calthrop (English) Devil's eyelashes (English) Devil's thorn (English)
Status: Native
Prostrate annual herb. All parts covered in long whitish hairs. Leaves opposite paripinnate, one leaf in a pair often longer than the other. Peduncle shorter than or as long as, the subtending leaf. Flowers solitary in leaf axils. Petals 3-8(-12) mm, light yellow. Fruit a hard triangular drupe with sharp spines.
Notes: The species is poisonous to livestock. The toxin, a triterpenoid, causes liver damage resulting in photosensitivity (distinctively; unpigmented parts of the skin react to UV light resulting in inflammation leading to swelling etc of particularly the head). This is known to farmers as 'geeldikkop' (yellow-thick-head). Toxicity usually results when livestock (particularly sheep) graze young, wilted plants.
Source: Roy Wakefield
Derivation of specific name: terrestris : growing on the ground, i.e. not epiphytic or aquatic
Habitat: In disturbed areas and sandy soils along roadsides and in grassland.
Altitude range: Up to 1400 m
Flowering time:Sep - May
Worldwide distribution: Throughout the world in tropical and warm regions
Malawi distribution: N,C,S
Growth form(s): Annual.
Endemic status:
Red data list status:
Insects associated with this species: Zizeeria knysna (Food plant)
Grammodes stolida (Food plant)
Spot characters: Display spot characters for this species
Content last updated: Sunday 30 June 2019

Bromilow, C. (2010). Problem Plants and Alien Weeds of South Africa Briza Publications, South Africa Page 349. (Includes a picture).

Chapano, C., Mugarisanwa, N.H. (2003). Plants of the Matobo District National Herbarium and Botanic Garden, Zimbabwe Page 35. As Tribulus terrestris terrestris

Da Silva, M.C., Izidine, S. & Amude, A.B. (2004). A preliminary checklist of the vascular plants of Mozambique. Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report No. 30 Sabonet, Pretoria Page 118.

Heath, A. & Heath, R. (2009). Field Guide to the Plants of Northern Botswana including the Okavango Delta Kew Publishing Page 322. (Includes a picture).

Kirby, G. (2013). Wild Flowers of Southeast Botswana Struik Nature, Cape Town South Africa Page 229. (Includes a picture).

Launert, E. (1963). Zygophyllaceae Flora Zambesiaca 2(1) Pages 126 - 129. (Includes a picture).

Mapaura, A. & Timberlake, J. (eds) (2004). A checklist of Zimbabwean vascular plants Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report No. 33 Sabonet, Pretoria and Harare Page 81. Under Tribulaceae

Phiri, P.S.M. (2005). A Checklist of Zambian Vascular Plants Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report No. 32 Page 103.

Pickering, H. & Roe, E. (2009). Wild Flowers of the Victoria Falls Area Helen Pickering, London Page 115. (Includes a picture).

Setshogo, M.P. (2005). Preliminary checklist of the plants of Botswana. Sabonet Report no. 37. Sabonet, Pretoria and Gaborone Page 111.

Wild, H. (undated, c. 1955). Common Rhodesian Weeds ?Government of Rhodesia, Salisbury Page 33. (Includes a picture).

Other sources of information about Tribulus terrestris:

Our websites:

Flora of Botswana: Tribulus terrestris
Flora of Caprivi: Tribulus terrestris
Flora of Mozambique: Tribulus terrestris
Flora of Zambia: Tribulus terrestris
Flora of Zimbabwe: Tribulus terrestris

External websites:

African Plants: A Photo Guide (Senckenberg): Tribulus terrestris
African Plant Database: Tribulus terrestris
Biodiversity Explorer (Biodiversity of southern Africa): Tribulus terrestris
BHL (Biodiversity Heritage Library): Tribulus terrestris
EOL (Encyclopedia of Life): Tribulus terrestris
ePIC (electronic Plant Information Center): Tribulus terrestris
Flora Zambesiaca web site: Tribulus terrestris
GBIF (Global Biodiversity Information Facility): Tribulus terrestris
Google: Web - Images - Scholar
GRIN (Germplasm Resources Information Network): Tribulus terrestris
IPNI (International Plant Names Index): Tribulus terrestris
Ispot Southern Africa: Tribulus terrestris
JSTOR Plant Science: Tribulus terrestris
Kew Herbarium catalogue: Tribulus terrestris
Mansfeld World Database of Agricultural and Horticultural Crops: Tribulus terrestris
The Plant List (version 1.1): Tribulus terrestris
Tropicos: Tribulus terrestris

Copyright: Mark Hyde, Bart Wursten, Petra Ballings and Meg Coates Palgrave, 2014-19

Hyde, M.A., Wursten, B.T., Ballings, P. & Coates Palgrave, M. (2019). Flora of Malawi: Species information: Tribulus terrestris., retrieved 20 July 2019

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