Florida Sandspurs



The sand-spur is a cruel Florida weed.

This thorny and stealth-like weed is most adapt to growing in Florida’s sparse and sandy soil as well as within the lush suburban landscapes.  I’ve seen grown men ‘frozen’ in their tracks from the simple realization that they stood barefoot in the midst of a sandspur patch – What to do?  It is an abrupt lesson to those unaware; stepping on the thorns of  a sandspur hurts, plain and simple.

image from shellkey.org, What is a Sandspur?


Native Floridians learn early on (usually through experience) to recognize red-ants from black-ants and to recognize a sand-spur patch before strolling into one.  The term “Grandpa!” (the expression used as reluctant sandspur splinters are painfully plucked and removed from the skin) connected long before their Grandfather’s proper name.

The lessons for children in Florida were in this order; 1) sandspurs HURT and 2) red ants bite! (don’t stand on a red ant hill).  In the early sixties running barefoot was ‘norm’ and sandspur patches in our neighborhood were commonplace, as were the emotions tied to them.  The dismay, the epidermal pain that sandspurs produced were all shared first-hand in our generation of friends –  of course we considered any ‘friend’ that fell to a sitting position while in a sandspur patch a bit ‘slow’…..  We learned to cope with sandspurs because avoiding sandspurs was impossible.


In the early seventies I drove a truck long-distance for a living, and on one particular trip returning from New York I witnessed quite the real-time sandspur awakening – it was a Northern family’s exuberance tempered by that little Southern weed.

Remember too that the large windshield of a semi is much like a ‘picture window; the driver of a truck notices most everything passing outside, that’s their job – to disseminate the information surrounding their truck (while operating in a safe manner).

It had been a long night of driving and on several occasions along I-95 from New Jersey I had noticed this certain vehicle with a particular family inside; also traveling south.  It wasn’t out of the ordinary to notice the same vehicle (s) several times over long distances when traveling in the same direction – on the same highway.  This particular family and I were running about the same pace so it just occurred that we crossed paths several times throughout our southern trek – their vehicle certainly fit the profile of ‘tourist’ – another family eagerly anticipating vacation in the sunshine state.

Traveling down I-95 to I-4 and onto central Florida’s Hwy-27 with the early morning sun rising.  Once again, the same vehicle came up in my large mirror.


As they passed I noticed a ‘restless’ movement in the back seat of their car, all appearing cramp and waking from their long night of traveling; ‘packed like sardines.’  In their stirring I sensed anticipation as they peered beyond the daylight while ‘prodding’ each other for elbow room.  They were waking to their ‘Promised Land,’ the land of sunshine and warmth – this New York family had finally made it to “Florida!”

I really could sense their excitement……

Their vehicle was in the distance when it slowed and pulled onto the right shoulder of the road, – the doors exploded open and the family lept from the car onto the shoulder of highway-27’s lush Florida earth.

Nearing, I noticed the tracks of the left where they had driven through the thick morning dew – then I recognized the sandspurs clinging to the car’s tires – and THEN, I noticed the faces.


As I moved on down the road it all began to sink in what was happening – the vehicle had stopped and the family sprang from the car onto the lush green surface – that was a fact.  BUT, it was at this point that each met reality within a Florida sandspur patch.  I imagined their exuberance as their weight likely pressed their socked feet onto the damp green surface – youch! – NO third steps here – any glee was suddenly an emotion past.

Startled expressions of dismay, faces as animated as neon signs – to this day this Northern family remains fixed in my mind just as they were that morning – ‘frozen’ on the Southbound side of Highway-27 and standing on a Florida sandspur patch.

Welcome to Florida folks, “The Sandspur State.”


As I drove onward towards my hometown of Ft. Myers the appreciation continued to grow in what I had witnessed – this Floridian was grinning inside and out.  It seemed then that my long weary journey from New York had now turned into a very pleasant ride home – for me, this event was funny – real funny.

Y’all come back y’hear…….


(years later this still makes me smile)


(this does not)

– Now how did we remove those thorns?  tweezers/a clean needle

For the thorns/splinters that did not come out with the ‘burr,’ tweezers were our third option (our fingernails were second).  At times, getting under the tiny head of the thorn with a knife, gently prying upward – then grabbing the tip of the splinter with tweezers worked.

Embedded thorns/splinters; (the ones you wanted to ignore but didn’t ‘go away’) we followed the path of the thorn under the skin (yes, I know its sensitive) with a needle before tearing the skin above, squeezing and having it surface (yes, its sore) – sometimes pre-soaking helped.  When a thorn/splinter has been in place a period of time the area will remain sore and eventually puss-up, if you have made it that far you may be able to break the surface of the skin, compress the area like a ‘zit,’ and have it surface.

Its hard to believe that a single tiny thorn can cause so much pain, but once the culprit is out – the pain ends…

12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. lavanda
    Aug 29, 2011 @ 22:36:02

    you get the longest sand-spur and hide. then when brother rounds the corner, ATTACK. throw it on his bare back. it was fla sports as a kid. and then it was, Off with the flip flops (before they were popular and fashionable). who could run thru the sand spur patch without having to stop and pull out a few thorns.
    oh my….. miss ya… laVodka



  2. Frenda Franklin Ward
    Oct 13, 2013 @ 09:26:13

    This makes me laugh, the familiarity of it. Brings to mind our trips to Fort Myers Beach in the 60’s. Parking the car with ocean waves in sight, heading down a path of HOT white sand only to be frozen in my tracks in a patch of sand spurs. Have to say, it was all worth the pain!



  3. Teresa
    Sep 12, 2014 @ 23:19:23

    And stinging nettles.. We used to have fights with them. You held the stinging nettle by the root. You could break off the sand spur and smack with that. I know, we were little heathens…



    • sojourner
      Apr 08, 2015 @ 09:42:46

      Whatever weapon is handy. Up north in the winter, of course, it was snowball fights, which only turned deadly when the innocent looking snowball was a thinly disguised iceball. Never mind that you could give your siblings a concussion if it ever made contact with their skull.

      I also remember when Mr. Potato Head’s facial features had a sharp projection, because it was expected to punch a hole in a real potato. Kids these days are being raised as little wusses. 😀

      P.S. I stumbled on this page because I’m helping my Mom in Florida and the spiky little buggers are showing up in her neglected lawn.



  4. Bj
    Jan 31, 2017 @ 10:17:44

    I hear nitrogen helps rid them.



  5. Brian Kelly
    Nov 24, 2020 @ 16:08:43

    Central Florida had no shortage of these little pia’s. They did hurt but the sand spurs in key west that is a whole different thing. B Kelly



  6. Silvia Miller
    May 18, 2021 @ 03:32:09

    I live south of San Antonio, TX. Those nasty little stickers and the fireants have traveled all the way to Texas. My family has learned never to go outside without shoes. And those shoes have to come off by the front door ; otherwise they get spread throughout the house. They get embedded in the carpet and just running the vacuum cleaner does not remove them! You might find yourself going to the bathroom in the middle of the night (still half asleep) und step on one of those evil seeds. The whole family will wake up when they hear your scream of sudden pain (possibly also some other choice words). Been there, done that more than once, lol!
    I once got one of the splinters embedded in my finger when I tried to pull the stickers from my son’s foot. It was there for about a year and I could feel it, but try all the ways I knew, I couldn’t get it out until it was good and ready. It just squirted out with a little stream of puss.

    We have learned that we’ll never have a lush green lawn around our house, where we can go barefoot!
    Don’t even get me started on the fireants! Before you stand still somewhere, you just have to make sure that you don’t stand on one of the little, almost invisible, mounds. Because they will get you! They don’t bite until several have climbed half – ways up both of your legs. And then like they have a secret signal, they all start to bite at the same time! They bite hard and they don’t fall off when you stomp your feet. My son discovered that it’s easiest to get rid of the itching, by poking the pustules with a needle and squeeze the liquid out. Repeat every time you see the pustules fill with liquid.
    Enough gripping, I love everything in Texas except those two things, lol. Oh, I forgot the poison oak. At least that stuff is big enough where you can see it, if you know what it looks like.



  7. Logan
    Mar 11, 2022 @ 14:31:17

    The first time I stepped on one felt like like aaaaaaaaa



  8. Rhonda Holland
    Mar 03, 2023 @ 13:34:39

    65 yrs later and I’m still running around Tampa barefooted. Hahaha I never learn apparently! 😉 I knew I still had a patch of sand spurs left in the thick grassy area. Well I found them finally by luck😉 my luck😂 I finally found 3 pesty burgers and got them out, I took good grass with them. They do know how to hide real good and blend in! You would think after 65 yrs I would know what to look for😂 Hopefully now they’re all gone in back yard. Dogs and stray cats don’t like them either. Baker (dog) will lift his foot up and just stand there till I walk over and pull it out for him. Lacey (dog) tries to get it out with her teeth, which makes matters worst!!! Make sure when grabbing the spur, it don’t get you too! Good luck

    Liked by 1 person


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: