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10 tall weeds with thorns (picture identification)

Thorny weeds can be annoying once they invade your garden or lawn. They are painful to touch, difficult to remove, and unsightly.

To get rid of thorny weeds, you may have to manually remove them, apply chemical herbicides, or look for other ways to prevent their regrowth.

The method to remove them will depend on the type of weed in your garden or lawn. Here are ten common tall weeds with thorns.  

1. Bull thistle – Cirsium vulgare

The bull or spear thistle is a biennial weed that grows up to six feet. The plant is native to Europe and West Asia but is neutralised worldwide.

The bull thistle is considered an invasive weed. It has large, spiny leaves, long, sharp spines on the midrib and the tips of the lobes, purple flowers, and an upright, branched stem. 

The bull thistle has a taproot system and grows in many environments. It is common in recently or repeatedly disturbed areas like hay fields, pastures, trails, roads, and vacant fields. 

You can eliminate the bull thistle through chemical control or manual removal, pulling it by hand or using a hoe.

2. Bristly oxtongue – Helminthotheca echioides

 Bristly oxtongue - Helminthotheca echioides
Bristly oxtongue – Helminthotheca echioides. Image: Flickr/Roger Steeb

The bristly oxtongue is an annual weed native to North Africa and Europe. The plant can reach between 90 and 150 centimeters in fertile soils and shady places.

The bristly oxtongue has basal rosette leaves with short petioles. It has coarse bristles that cover it and pale thorny pimples on the surface of the leaves. 

The bristly oxtongue is an invasive plant that can outcompete native species and disrupt ecosystems. 

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When the soil is moist, you can remove this weed by hand pulling, string trimming, or hoeing.

3. Creeping thistle – Cirsium arvense

Creeping thistle
Bristly oxtongue – Helminthotheca echioides Photo by Flickr/14ts

The creeping or Canadian thistle is a perennial weed native throughout Europe, Western Asia, and Northern Africa. 

The herbaceous plant is among the many tall weeds with spikes and can grow to heights of up to 150 centimeters.

The plant has hairless or thinly hair leaves beneath the leaves and produces flowerheads with purple or pink disc florets. 

The creeping thistle is commonly found in disturbed areas and vacant lots. It is a noxious weed with an extensive root system that can make management difficult because new plants can sprout from the roots.

Therefore, applying herbicides is the best way of eliminating the plant. 

4. Devil’s claw – Proboscidea louisianica

Devil's claw - Proboscidea louisianica
Devil’s claw – Proboscidea louisianica. Image: Flickr/Matt Buckingham

The devil’s claw is a leafy perennial weed native to Southern Africa. It has creeping stems that grow to heights of up to two meters.

The weed gets its name from the small hooks that cover its fruit. It also has wide, large, rounded leaves with a slight point on the tip. 

The devil’s claw has branching roots, shoots, and secondary roots that grow out of the main roots. Thus, chemical application offers an effective way of eliminating the weed.

5. Carolina horsenettle – Solanum carolinense

Carolina horsenettle - Solanum carolinense
Carolina horsenettle – Solanum carolinense. Image: Flickr/Nitya’s photography

Carolina horsenettle is a tall weed with thorns on the stem. The perennial plant is native to the Southeastern United States and is notorious for being difficult to pull due to its sharp thorns.

The Carolina horsenettle is commonly found in disturbed areas, where the stem can grow to heights of three feet. It also produces white to lavender flowers with a star-like shape, and the undersides of larger leaf veins are covered with prickles or spines. 

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Because of its sharp thorns, manual plant removal can be challenging. Therefore, the best way is to apply chemicals.

6. Multiflora rose – Rosa multiflora

Multiflora rose - Rosa multiflora
Multiflora rose – Rosa multiflora. Image: Flickr/bps6162

Multiflora rose is a perennial shrub native to Eastern Asia. The plant has a single stem, but it can have multiple stems that can grow up to heights of 15 feet.

The shrub is among prickly weeds because it has curved thorns or prickles. Also, its leaves are alternate and have five to eleven leaflets. 

People consider the multiflora rose an invasive weed because it can form dense thickets that destroy good plants and reduce biodiversity. 

Therefore, eliminate it through chemical application or hoeing. 

7. Common cocklebur – Xanthium strumarium

Common cocklebur - Xanthium strumarium
Common cocklebur – Xanthium strumarium. Image: Flickr/Jodi Boe

The common cocklebur is an example of a weed that has stems with thorns. The annual plant is native to Southern Europe and Asia and grows to heights of up to four feet.

The stems of the common cocklebur have spots ranging from green to purple, and the leaves are alternate and triangular. It also produces small, inconspicuous flowers arranged in spike-like clusters.

The plant usually grows along roadsides, railways, small streams, riverbanks, and disturbed areas. You can hoe newly emerged cockleburs until you expose the roots and dispose of the seeds.

8. Prickly lettuce – Lactuca serriola

Prickly lettuce - Lactuca serriola
Prickly lettuce – Lactuca serriola. Image: Flickr/janosh

Prickly lettuce is an annual plant native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa. It has an erect solitary stem reaching heights up to 40 inches.

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The plant forms a basal rosette during the early growth cycle. Its leaves are deeply lobed and have prickles on the undersides. 

The prickly lettuce usually grows along roads, railroads, sidewalks, vacant lots, waste areas, pastures, orchards, and cultivated fields. 

Use gloves when dealing with tall weeds with thorns, whether hoeing or hand-pulling. Alternatively, monitoring and removing the plant before it goes to seed is also best.

9. Sandbur – Cenchrus longispinus

 Sandbur - Cenchrus longispinus
Sandbur – Cenchrus longispinus. Image: Flickr/Doug McGrady

Sandbur is an annual and sometimes perennial weed native to Asia, Africa, Australia, and the Americas. These tall weeds with small thorns grow in poorly-maintained lawns and open areas.

It has green-yellow blades that can reach heights of two feet. Also, the weed has a spiny, yellowish bur that forms at the top of the stem, making it painful to step on.

The sandbur has a shallow and fibrous root system that emerges from the plant base. 

Therefore, you can remove it by mowing your lawn, spreading cardboard to suffocate it, or using a pre-emergence to prevent its early growth.

10. Brambles – Robus

Brambles – Robus app
Brambles – Robus

Then brambles are a perennial group of plants in the Rubus genus. Most consider them tall weeds with thorns because they have prickly stems and leaves. 

The term bramble is often used to describe raspberries and blackberries. However, the term can also refer to other plants in the Rubus genus, which has over 200 species. 

Brambles grow in many soil types and are adaptable to different environmental conditions. During the growth cycles, the plants produce attractive flowers in white or pink color. 

You can control brambles by using a weed killer or cutting down the plant before waiting for its regrowth.

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