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Publication #SP 37

Southern Sandspur (Southern Sandbur), Cenchrus echinatus L.1

D. W. Hall, V. V. Vandiver, and J. A. Ferrell2


Common Name: Southern Sandspur (Southern Sandbur)

Scientific Name: Cenchrus echinatus L.

Family: Gramineae (Poaceae), Grass Family


The blades are flat and like sandpaper on the upper surface (Figure 1). The ligules are up to 1.6 mm long. The lower papery portion of the ligule is only 0.2 mm long and the fringe of hairs is up to 1.4 mm long.

Figure 1. 

Seedling, Southern Sandspur (Southern Sandbur), Cenchrus echinatus L.

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Mature Plant

Southern Sandspur is an annual with ascending stem tips from the lower nodes which bend and root (Figure 2). The leaf sheaths are completely without hairs or can have long hairs along the margins. The blades lack hairs above and below, or can have long scattered hairs above. The seedheads are composed of spiny burs and are 3-14 cm long and 1-2 cm wide. The burs, excluding the spines, are 4.1-6.3 mm wide and 5.3-8.0 mm long to the tip of the spikelets. The spines are of two kinds: 1) flattened spines that are spread over the body of the bur and 2) fine slender bristle-like spines that are situated in a ring at the base of the bur. The seedheads appear throughout the year in the South and during the summer and fall in the North.

Figure 2. 

Mature plant, Southern Sandspur (Southern Sandbur), Cenchrus echinatus L.

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]


The name Cenchrus is from the Greek word for millet, cenchros. The Greek species name echinatus means armed with spines.


This weed occurs throughout Florida in turf, cultivated and disturbed areas; throughout warmer areas of the United States, from North Carolina to California; Mexico; Central America; South America; the West Indies; Pacific Islands; and Australia.


The southeastern United States has two similar weedy sandspurs. These are Coast Sandspur (C. incertus) and the Southern Sandspur. Two kinds of spines on the bur of the Southern Sandspur separate it from the Coast Sandspur.



This document is SP 37, one of a series of the Agronomy Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date May 1991. Revised February 2006. Reviewed January 2012. Visit the EDIS website at


David W. Hall, former extension botanist, Herbarium, Florida Museum of Natural History; Vernon V. Vandiver, associate professor emeritus, Agronomy Department; Jason A. Ferrell, assistant professor, Agronomy Department; Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.