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Plants With Burrs

Plants use burrs to attach seed pods or viable reproductive parts to passing people, animals or equipment to spread the plant to new locations.


Some burrs are so small that they are almost unnoticeable, while some are large enough to create a flat tire. Burrs can appear as almost microscopic entities, such as hedge parsley (Torilis arvensis) or as bigger, clearly hazardous hooks, such as Devil's claw (Proboscidea louisianica). Others appear like a bee, resulting in nicknames like the Bidens pilosa.

Plants With Burrs

What kind of plant has burrs?

Burrs are usually spread in agricultural seeds of summer crops such as maize, sorghum and sunflower. Burrs can also be dispersed via road building operations. A single, robust, open-grown plant can develop as much as 11,000 burrs.

Why do plants have burrs?

Burrs serve as hooks to connect the seed pod or plant portion to the moving host. The burr holds on while the host goes on its journey until the host intentionally extracts the burr, or unintentionally bumps against a surface that dislodges it. The burrs turn the seed pod into a botanical hitchhiker with little discernment. If the seed or plant lands in a new area, it attempts to root and resume the process all over again, making these species extremely invasive in nature.


Burr-bearing plants grow all over the world. The method of hitchhiking chosen would rely on the available species, from sea birds for island-dwelling plants to hikers and livestock in more settled areas. Every fur-bearing or feather-bearing creature can provide for the transport of a burr, since the burr requires nothing from the host but mobility.

Are burrs poisonous to dogs?

These prickly seeds can be present on certain plants and can cling to your dog's (or cat's) hair if it comes into contact with them. It's important to try to extract the burrs as soon as possible. In addition to being painful, they may get lodged in the skin, which can lead to infection.