Tribulus terrestris L.

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Tribulus terrestris

Photo: Bart Wursten
City centre, Mutare

Tribulus terrestris

Photo: Bart Wursten
City centre, Mutare

Tribulus terrestris

Photo: Bart Wursten
Guvulala Pan, Hwange NP

Tribulus terrestris

Photo: Bart Wursten
Along main Zvishavane - Rutenga road

Tribulus terrestris

Photo: Bart Wursten
Along main Zvishavane - Rutenga road

Tribulus terrestris

Photo: Mark Hyde
Glenara Avenue, Harare

Tribulus terrestris

Photo: Bart Wursten
Zambezi River channel in front of Zambezi Sans River Lodge, Zambezi National Park.

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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) Intolofiyane (Ndebele) Isihlabamakhondlwane (Ndebele) Isihoho (Ndebele)
Frequency: Common at middle and lower altitudes
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: (metres) Up to 1530 m
Flowering time:Dec-Feb
Worldwide distribution: Native to the Old World but distributed throughout the world in tropical and warm regions.
Zimbabwe distribution: N,W,C,E,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
Images last updated: Saturday 11 May 2019

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

Chapano, C. & Mamuto, M. (2003). Plants of the Chimanimani District National Herbarium and Botanic Garden, Zimbabwe Page 56. As Tribulus terrestris terrestris

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. (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 Caprivi: cultivated Tribulus terrestris
Flora of Malawi: Tribulus terrestris
Flora of Mozambique: Tribulus terrestris
Flora of Zambia: Tribulus terrestris

External websites:

African Plants: A Photo Guide (Senckenberg): Tribulus terrestris
African Plant Database: Tribulus terrestris
BHL (Biodiversity Heritage Library): Tribulus terrestris
EOL (Encyclopedia of Life): Tribulus terrestris
GBIF (Global Biodiversity Information Facility): Tribulus terrestris
Google: Web - Images - Scholar
iNaturalist: Tribulus terrestris
IPNI (International Plant Names Index): Tribulus terrestris
JSTOR Plant Science: Tribulus terrestris
Mansfeld World Database of Agricultural and Horticultural Crops: Tribulus terrestris
Plants of the World Online: Tribulus terrestris
Tropicos: Tribulus terrestris
Wikipedia: Tribulus terrestris

Copyright: Mark Hyde, Bart Wursten, Petra Ballings and Meg Coates Palgrave, 2002-24

Hyde, M.A., Wursten, B.T., Ballings, P. & Coates Palgrave, M. (2024). Flora of Zimbabwe: Species information: Tribulus terrestris., retrieved 23 June 2024

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