En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - January 22, 2013

From: LaGrange, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Problem Plants, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Need help fighting grass burs in La Grange, TX.
Answered by: Jimmy Mills


I have 4 acres of wildflowers planted in my front yard. Unfortunately, grassburs have crept in & I need to control them with a pre-emergent. Will this keep the wildflowers from blooming? Also, would like to apply a fertilizer, & the same question applies - will this affect my wildflowers?


Grass burs have many common names, some of which we won’t mention in this space. There are at least 11 species listed in the USDA Plants Database, but the one you are dealing with is most likely Cenchrus spinifex (Coastal sandbur) (see distribution map) , or perhaps Cenchrus echinatus (southern sandbur) (see distribution map). 

Grass burs are considered to be summer annuals and can be controlled either chemically or mechanically. Pre-emergent herbicides offer a good means of chemical control of these weeds by preventing seed germination. Many of your wildflowers are also annuals however, so the timing of application is critical so you aren’t also preventing the wildflowers from germinating as well.

Mechanical control involves pulling (or digging) up the grass burrs before they flower and set seed. Cutting off the flower stalks before the seeds mature is also effective.

I’m going to refer you to a couple of links,  and a couple of answers to previous questions that will help flesh out these strategies.

The first link is to Texas AgriLife Extension, Aransas County Office, and has a thorough discussion of the problems and some cures for sand burs.

This link to Aggie-horticulture includes information concerning herbicide use.

These two answers to previous questions should also prove helpful



Another source of help is the Fayette County Office of Texas Agrilife Extension.


From the Image Gallery

Grass bur
Cenchrus spinifex

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Native border plants to stop erosion
February 18, 2015 - I need native border plants to assist in stopping soil erosion due to water run off from rain and the Catawba River.
view the full question and answer

Flowering Deer Resistant Ground Cover for Dry Rocky Soil: Alabama
March 26, 2012 - My question has been partially answered in the FAQ but I live in Birmingham where the soil is clay and rocky so it's a little different. I want to plant on a rocky slope (small rocks like the size of...
view the full question and answer

Raised beds over lateral lines in Solgohachia AR
January 02, 2010 - I would like to build raised flower beds over my lateral lines. They would be planted with strawberries and perennials. Will this cause any problems with the absorption into the ground or not lettin...
view the full question and answer

Control of invasive sandburs in Austin
May 05, 2014 - My attempts to control / eradicate Sanbur with pre-emergent corn gluten twice yeary for the last three years have been unsuccessful. My post emergent pulling weeds for 15 years has also been unsucces...
view the full question and answer

Non-native invasive chickweed in Collegeville PA
December 31, 2011 - My problem is chickweed. I have found considerable information on how to eliminate the chickweed. My question is after following a suggested elimination process: How and when do I reseed with grass?...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center