How To Get Rid of Grass Burrs?

grass burr

Grass burrs are annoying spiky balls that can appear on lawns or grasslands. These burrs are seedpods from the grass species called Cenchrus, which are considered to be weeds. For example, Cenchrus echinatus, its common names are spiny sandbur, southern sandbur, and Mossman River Grass.

The seedpods of these pesky grass stick to fur, clothing, and even skin. Stepping on them with bare feet is quite painful for people and animals! Grass burrs usually appear in August. Before grass burrs appear, it might be difficult to know, that your lawn contains spiny sandbur.


In New Caledonia and coastal Australia, Cenchrus echinatus is considered to be invasive.

Cenchrus spinifex (common sandbur, coastal sandbur or stickerweed) is a noxious weed in Europe. Stickerweed can also be found in Philipines, United States, Mexico, the Carribean and South Africa.

In this article, we will provide information on how to identify different types of Cenchrus grass, how to prevent it and how to deal with it once it has infested your lawn.

How To Identify Grass Burrs?

Sandbur grass can grow up to 30 inches (76 cm) tall. It is much easier to recognize mature plants when the seed heads appear. The leaves on younger plants are hairless, but the surrounding stem may have hairs. The stems themselves are often colored purple. To know for sure, dig up the young plant and a burr will be attached to the seedling.

Cenchrus echinatus
Cenchrus echinatus with burrs


Best way to deal with Cenchrus grasses is prevention, not allowing the seedlings to take root in your lawn. Here are a few tips you should keep in mind.

#1 Tip – Mowing

Mow the lawn regularly. Doing so will not allow the plants to grow burrs, since they usually grow quite tall before they start growing seed pods. Use a mower with a bag attached to it, this way the mowed-down weed plants won’t be able to spread their seeds around.

#2 Tip – Fertilize

Fertilize your lawn. Thick healthy grass will decrease the chances of another plant growing in it.

#3 Tip – Water

Give your lawn water to help growth, sandburs can tolerate dry soil better than regular grass. When the lawn is healthy and watered, sandburs don’t have much of a chance to grow.

Mature grass burrs
Mature grass burrs Source: Starr

Getting Rid of Grass Burrs

Removing Cenchrus grass is quite a challenge. Preventing this pesky weed is much preferred. Grass burr seeds have a germination life of up to 7 years, but they cannot reproduce with rhizomes. Here are a few ways you can try to get rid of them.

#1 Dig Them Up

When you see only a couple of grass burrs growing, dig up the whole plant. This method is not viable once grass burrs have become established since they can spread quicker than you can dig them up.

#2 Wait For The Winter

Sometimes it’s better to do nothing, in colder regions winter may take care of the plants. Once the grass burrs are more established, this is less likely. Once its spring time, make sure you maintain your lawn properly, not allowing new grass burs to grow.

#3 Use Herbicides

In spring, use a post-emergent herbicide that contains DSMA or MSMA. This should be done, when temperatures have risen to at least 75 degrees Fahrenheit or 23 degrees Celsius. Don’t use these herbicides if your lawn is St. Augustine or Centipede Grass, since they will die as well.

There are also pre-emergent herbicides available, which should be used when temperatures are around 52 degrees Fahrenheit or 11 degrees Celsius. The pre-emergent herbicide will prevent the seeds from germinating.


Grass burrs are annoying painful weeds that spread easily, especially in dry regions. Good lawn maintenance – watering, mowing, and fertilizing can prevent this weed from growing.

Once Cenchrus grass has been established, try digging them up. As a last resort when nothing else has worked, use herbicides containing DSMA or MSMA.

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