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 certain family inside, also traveling south.  Not unusual because while driving it wasn’t out of the ordinary to notice the same vehicle (s) several times over long distances headed in the same direction – on the same highway.  This family and I were running about the same pace so it just occurred that we crossed paths several times throughout our southern trek, this vehicle certainly fit the profile of ‘tourist’ – another family anticipating vacation in the sunshine state.

Down I-95 to I-4 and onto central Florida’s Hwy-27 I had traveled, the early morning sun was rising.  Once again I recognized this same vehicle coming up in my mirror.


As they passed I noticed a ‘restless’ movement in the back seat of their car, all appearing cramp and waking from a long night of traveling ‘packed like sardines.’  In their stirring I sensed excitement and anticipation as they peered beyond the daylight while ‘prodding’ each other.  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.

As I neared, the first thing that I noticed were the tracks of the car from where they had driven through the thick morning dew – then I recognized the sandspurs clinging to the car’s tires – and THEN, I saw their faces.


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, it was at this point that each met reality within a Florida sandspur patch.  I imagined their exuberance as the weight pressed their socks and 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, standing within a Florida sandspur patch.

Welcome to Florida folks, “The Sandspur State.”


As I drove onward towards Ft. Myers the appreciation continued to grow in what I had witnessed – creating a large grin across this native Floridian’s face.  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…

7 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. :D

      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.


      • Tom Haynie (bacshortly)
        Apr 08, 2015 @ 12:30:36

        Good luck with their riddance, not the wusses – we’re stuck with them.

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