Tribulus terrestris | ‘Bindii’, ‘Burra Gokharu’, ‘Gokshura’, ‘Puncture Vine’ | 25 seeds
Well-adapted to arid conditions and hence widely distributed around the globe, Tribulus terrestris is an herbaceous annual plant of the Zygophyllaceae, known commonly by names such as ‘Bindii’, ‘Bullhead’, ‘Burra Gokharu’, ‘Bhakhdi’, ‘Caltrop’, ‘Cat’s Head’, ‘Devil’s Eyelashes’, ‘Devil’s Thorn’, ‘Devil’s Weed’, ‘Goat’s Head’, ‘Gokshura’, ‘Puncture Vine’, ‘Sand Spur’, ‘Small Caltrops’ and ‘Tackweed’. This is another of our UK exclusives!
Native to regions with warm temperate or tropical climates in USDA Hardiness Zones 10-11, such as Africa, southern Asia, Australia and southern Europe, the species is also widely naturalised to North America, where it is sometimes considered an invasive weed. Terrestris grows from a taproot, from which a network of rootlets harnesses the soil’s moisture, enabling it to grow in harsh conditions, including desert, disturbed areas and low-nutrient wasteland.
Once mature, Tribulus terrestris can reach anything from fifteen centimetres to nearly a metre tall (dependent on growing conditions, genetics, etc.). Radiating outward from the plant’s crown, the hairy stems form a diameter of anything from ten to a hundred (or more) centimetres, often in prostrate to semi-prostrate patches. Leaves are opposite, up to three millimetres in length and pinnately compound. The beautifully delicate, five-petalled yellow flowers blooms appear between spring to autumn and range between roughly four and ten millimetres wide. These flowers are followed by a fruit, usually containing five hard, spined nutlets (approximately ten millimetres long by five millimetres wide) which contain the seeds. They often resemble the heads of bulls or goats, with ‘horns’ sharp enough to puncture bicycle tires – and bare feet! These spikes help the seeds to be dispersed, as livestock and other animals transport them stuck to their feet or coats.
Tribulus terrestris is an important and ancient tool for many traditional herbalists and other practitioners around the globe, notably including in various forms of Chinese and Indian medicine. Furthermore, the seeds (or nutlets – in combination with the juice of Acokanthera venenata) may have been used as a traditional killing weapon in southern Africa, while some body-builders believe Tribulus terrestris can increase their levels of testosterone, although it has failed to demonstrate either testosterone-increasing or strength-enhancing properties in various studies. Interestingly, a 2017 research paper, published in Cryobiology magazine, showed the species to improve human sperm motility and general viability, while various “aphrodisiac” products are available which are based on its plant extracts. Sheep eating terrestris foliage often encourage the disease Tribulosis, caused by the plant’s toxins, which can cause damage to the liver and other negative effects.
When cultivating Tribulus terrestris, it is important to remember that it can quickly and easily become invasive, so it is best grown in containers, such as plant pots. In the wild, terrestris seeds may lay dormant in dry soil for anything up to seven years, germinating once the conditions are suitable. Another adaption for when conditions are dry is that the largest terrestris seed may germinate before the others, dependent on the available moisture resources. It’s very tolerant of poorly nutritious or otherwise low quality soil, provided it’s kept consistently moist – allow a minimum of a metre or so between each seedling (so they have sufficient room to reach maturity) and plant somewhere in full sun. Don’t forget to wear gloves when handling your spiky terrestris plants!
All the seed sold by Arkham’s Botanical was freshly and ethically sourced in 2018-2019