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10 most common weeds with thorns

No one likes weeds in their garden or lawn, especially those with thorns. They are invasive and prevent crops or grass from growing. They can be painful when they prick you.

Most people encountering thorny weeds will do everything possible to eradicate them, including herbicides.

However, some have several benefits, from being edible to offering medicinal properties.

Below, we have compiled a list of the top 10 common thorny weeds that you are likely to find in your garden. If you are to touch them, make sure to wear protective gloves.

1. Spiny sow thistle

Spiny snow thistle is an annual or biennial weed plant that grows tall, reaching up to 2 meters. It is common in gardens, pastures, roadsides, fields, and woody areas.

Smooth sow thitsle and prickly sow thitlse
Image by: Michael Peverett

It is easy to identify as it is one of the most common weeds with thorns on leaves – it has thorns on the edges and the underside of the leaves.

Spiny sow thistles are invasive as they produce several seeds that scatter easily.

However, it has several benefits.

The young leaves of the wild plant are edible – whether cooked or eaten raw.

The plant also has medicinal properties, cultivated for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

2. Catbrier

Catbrier (Smilax bona-nox) is a perennial thorny vine that is popularly known as greenbrier. It has spiny, woody stems, which can be low or high climbing (up to 25 feet), forming thick impenetrable thickets.

Catbrier/ Round Greenbrier (Smilax rotundifolia)
Image by: Flickr/ClaytonVNPS1

Catbrier is highly invasive as it spreads quickly through seeds from its fruits.

However, it also has hardy, deep rhizomes, which can survive even fires, allowing the plant to grow back.

The plant is also beneficial and offers medicinal properties, including treating joint pain, gout, and skin disease.

Its leaves and fruits also serve as food and shelter for wildlife.

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3. Burweed

Burweed is also known as spurweed, stickerweed, or lawn burrweed. It is one of the most common weeds with thorns found in grass.

Annual Burrweed (Ambrosia acanthicarpa), Pine Valley, CA, 8-8-15
Image by: Flickr/AzureJay Wildlife Documentary

Burrweed is every lawn owner’s nightmare, as it rapidly germinates after winter and can outcompete the grass.

It is also conspicuous, and can easily prick your feet when you are walking barefoot on the lawn.

However, despite its reputation, it does have some benefits. For many years, the plant was cultivated for its medicinal properties, particularly its ability to treat fever.

Therefore, one or two of these weeds growing on your grass might not be bad. But if you feel it is invading your space, use these removal techniques.

4. California burclover

California burclover (Medicago polymorpha), also known as toothed burclover, is an annual broadleaf weed that grows in disturbed pastures, fields, waste areas, and roadsides, just to name a few.

Carrapiço / California Burclover (Medicago polymorpha)
Image by: Flickr/Valter Jacinto

It has oblong-shaped leaves, erect green stems, bright yellow flowers, and prickly seeds (burs).

California burclover can quickly spread through its seeds or deep roots and overtake other plants.

However, it is cultivated in a controlled manner for several benefits. First, the leaves are edible and consumed as vegetables in many regions.

It is also a good source of fodder for livestock.

5. Stickseed

Stickseed, also known as Virginia stickseed, is a biennial plant that grows in light shade and woodland areas.

Hackelia virginiana, Sparta, Monroe County Wisconsin, 4 August 2019.
Image by: Flickr/Corey Raymond

You will usually find it growing on the roadsides and garden areas and can invade lawns. Virginia stickseed is one of the tall weeds with thorns, reaching up to four feet high.

It has oval-shaped, hairy leaves and tiny white flowers. It also produces prickly nutlets, which release sticky seeds when they dry up.

While stickseed has gained a reputation for being an invasive weed, it was grown as a beneficial plant for several years.

It was used in Cherokee herbal medicine to treat skin cancers and kidney conditions and improve cognitive function.

Some cultures even used it for love charms.

6. Carolina horsenettle

Carolina horsenettle is a perennial herbaceous plant that is native to areas of North America.

These plants have stickers all over and along with sand spurs are the reason I never go barefoot.
Image by: Flickr/ Joe Brantley

It goes by several local names, including sand brier, bull nettle, wild tomato, radical weed, and Sodom apple.

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It has large, oblong leaves with sharp prickles on the underside. The stem of the plant is also covered with thorns.

California nettle is an invasive plant that spreads easily through a rhizome system. It also attracts several insects, spreading pests and diseases to crops.

However, it has several benefits. It is cultivated for its medicinal properties, used to treat asthma and bronchitis, and is also a diuretic.

Some communities also use it as an aphrodisiac.

On top of that, it provides nectar to bees (particularly bumblebees) and food (berries) for wildlife.

7. Jimson weed

Jimson weed (Datura stramonium), also known as thorn apple, devil’s snare, or devil’s trumpet, is another thorny weed plant you are likely to find.

Datura stramonium
Image by: Flickr/Brenda Dobbs

It is a flowering plant that is part of the nightshade family. It has an upright growing branching plant with large, undulated leaves and trumpet-shaped flowers.

However, it is more commonly known for its thorny egg-shaped seed capsules (thorn apple) surrounded by prickles.

Jimson weed is a highly invasive plant that spreads quickly through seeds when the capsule dries and bursts.

It is also hard to eradicate due to its thick roots and is considered toxic to human beings and animals.

However, Jimson weed is also famous for its several medicinal properties.

Further, humans used the weed for several years to treat respiratory ailments such as asthma, flu, cough, and swine.

In addition, in early and traditional medicine, humans used the weed to treat epilepsy and explosive conditions.

Jimson weed also contains psychoactive properties, which produce a hallucinogenic effect.

It is used among indigenous Americans and other cultures worldwide for spiritualism and occult practices.

8. Prickly sida

Prickly sida (Sida rhombifolia), also known as arrowleaf sida, is a perennial plant native to the tropic and subtropics region.

Sida spinosa L. - Prickly Fan Petals
Image by: Flickr/Bill Harms

It has woody, branching stems that grow up to heights of 120 cm. Its leaves are diamond-shaped and feature small spines at the base of each leaf.

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Many consider prickly sida invasive due to its tendency to infest crop fields where cotton, peanuts, and soybeans are grown.

However, it is not entirely without use. The plants are used for their anti-inflammatory properties to relieve swelling.

The plant’s fruits also reduce headaches, while the roots treat rheumatism.

9. Wild brambles

Wild brambles are a variety of wildly growing blackberries and raspberries plants. They are thorny plants, which you can quickly identify with their dark purple and bright red berries.

Image by: Wikipedia

Brambles are invasive as they can quickly infest gardens and take over from other plants.

However, they are one of the most beneficial wild plants. Their berries are edible and a rich source of antioxidants. Birds and other animals also eat them.

10. Bull thistle

Bull thistles are biennial herbaceous weeds with thorns and purple flowers. They are tall growing, reaching up to seven feet tall.

San Diego County, California, US
Image by: BJ Stacey

Its leaves are broad, coarse and deeply lobbed and come with sharp spines extending from the tip of the leaves to the stems.

Bull thistles are highly aggressive, spreading through seeds dispersed by winds.

They can survive in the soil for several years before infesting and thriving in poorly maintained grounds.

However, the bull thistle plant also offers several benefits. The plant was used in traditional medicine to make medicinal tea, which helps treat muscle stiffness and rheumatism.

The roots also aid in digestion and treat stomach cramps.

Wrapping up

The above are some common thorny plants you can come across in your garden, lawn, crop field, roadsides, woods, and other areas.

While the weeds are invasive and toxic, they offer several benefits.

So, before you eradicate them, you might want to consider whether they can benefit you and are worth keeping.

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