Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Longspine Sandbur - Cenchrus longispinus   (Hackel) Fernald
Members of Poaceae:
Members of Cenchrus with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 5 » Order Cyperales » Family Poaceae
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Author(Hackel) Fernald
DistributionScattered across the state, without apparent pattern. Range maps in RAB (1968), BONAP, and some other sources seem to have this species confused with C. incertus; the maps in RAB appear to be reversed. Based on specimens, C. incertus seems to be common across nearly all of the Coastal Plain and southeastern Piedmont; on the other hand, C. longispinus is more spottily collected across the Coastal Plain and Piedmont.

ME to OR, south to FL, TX, and CA.
AbundanceUncommon to perhaps frequent. Likely present over most of the state, with eventual collection documentation from many more counties. The current NCNHP State Rank of S4? seems appropriate, for now.
HabitatDry to xeric sandy roadsides, railroads, fields, other disturbed sites. These are the same ruderal habitats as where the very similar C. incertus is found.
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting June-October.
IdentificationLongspine Sandspur is most similar to C. incertus, but it differs in having numerous (more than 45) slender spines per spikelet versus only 6-10 stout spines per spikelet in C. incertus).
Taxonomic CommentsA synonym is C. pauciflorus Bentham.

Sandspurs are notorious for their extremely strong and sharp spines which catch on clothing, fur, and skin alike. The spines actually are flattened and extremely hardened bristles borne at the base of each spikelet. There also is a second set of bristles just outside the spines and not hardened. Care must be taken with a dissecting scope to reach accurate identification. NOTE: Some sites use "sandspur" and some use "sandbur" for the group common name for Cenchrus. In the Carolinas, at least, "sandspur" is much the more often used -- as do Weakley (2018) and RAB (1968) -- and thus the website editors are using that group common name.
Other Common Name(s)Northern Sandspur, Common Sandspur, Mat Sandspur
State RankS4?
Global RankG5
State Status
US Status
USACE-agcpFACU link
USACE-empUPL link
County Map - click on a county to view source of record.
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B.A. SorrieGravel road and RR SE of US route1, just N of Camp Mackall, July 2016. RichmondPhoto_natural

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