Invasive plant growing throughout the South Okanagan and Similkameen has a pointy seed pod that sticks into skin and pops tires

Pointy plant punctures skin

Casey Richardson

Watch out for puncture vine, the invasive plant with a spiked seed pod in the South Okanagan and Similkameen Valley that will poke into a person's foot, a dog's paws, or even pop your tires.

The Okanagan and Similkameen Invasive Species Society (OASISS) has seen more reports this year about the summer annual plant that was introduced to the area from the Mediterranean and thrives on really hot summer days.

“Puncture vine is aptly named because of the seed pods, there's five segments to the seed pods and each of those segments has two spines, and their top is like a tack,” ??said Lisa Scott, executive director for OASISS.

“They'll actually even poke into bicycle tires and pop the tube so that's a real problem for our residents or tourists who are just trying to go out and enjoy biking on our trails.”

The plant can be identified by one main short root, and the stems that spread flat on the ground, growing in all different directions up to 10 feet long.

“And when the sun is shining, you will look for small yellow flowers. And these flowers then turn into the seed pods which have the sharp spines and the seeds are actually quite tiny, little bit like poppy seeds and they're housed within that spiny seed pod.”

A toxin also sits within the seed and will leave the spot sore if pricked.

“The main risk with puncture vine is that it is painful if stepped on. Or if you're trying to control it definitely use gloves because it will puncture your skin. It's also a problem for grazing animals. So if a puncture vine moves into your pasture or your hay field or in a location where you have grazing animals, you will want to control it because it can get into their mouths and cause painful ulcers,” Scott said.

If removing puncture vine or your property OASISS recommends gloves to avoid the prickly pods.

Dig out the area, removing as much of the root system as possible and dispose of it at a landfill, not in compost bins, to prevent further spread.

This year has seen an increase in puncture vine sightings, crawling across vineyards, dog parks, beaches and open areas.

“Puncture vine is actually not a one of our strong competitive invasive plants, it's actually a really weak vine, and it takes advantage of locations where really nothing else wants to grow. So vacant lots that are very sandy or gravelly, are roadsides, it really loves moving into areas like gravel pits.”

One of Penticton’s off-leash dog parks, located off Industrial Avenue, had puncture vine growing throughout the area.

“It's really concerning to see puncture vine growing in a location such as a dog park, because of course the dogs are unaware they're going to step on it and the seed pods can get lodged into their paws and be quite painful. So just like any other time we see a puncture vine, we had a report of this sighting and we will be working with the city of Penticton to remove it and make it a safe place for people and dogs.”

If you spot a puncture vine in a public place, such as a park, beach or parking lot, make sure to report it to your local government body.

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