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Tribulus terrestris L. -- Zygophyllaceae




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       A cosmopolitan plant of European and North African origin is a prostrate, annual herb that bears and abundance of small yellow flowers and prickly spiny fruit.  The fruit separates at maturity into five, bony and one to four-seeded segments, each of which is studded with two or four sharp and rigid, divergent spines.  The seeds are through to survive burial in soils for ca. 20 years, and the spines penetrate and lodge in automobile tires, shoes, human feed and the fur of animals, which aids their dissemination (Johnson 1932, Goeden & Ricker 1973, Goeden & Andrés 1999).


       Puncture vine naturally ranges from the Mediterranean and Africa to the drier parts of Asia (Andrés & Angelet 1963).  It was accidentally introduced into the midwestern United States with livestock imported from the Mediterranean area.  Puncher vine now occurs broadly in the United States but is most common in the southwestern states.  It arrived in California around 1900, apparently as a railroad ballast contaminant, and spread rapidly along railroads and highways.  As an agricultural plant its spiny fruit interferes with hand harvesting, injury livestock and contaminate seed, feed and wool (Johnson 1932).  It also is a plant of disturbed residential and industrial land, and like crabgrass, is a plant that many city dwellers recognize.  As an annual, nonwoody, nonrangeland plant, Puncher vine represents a departure from the traditional perennial range and pasture plant pest targeted for biological control.


       Surveys were conducted in India, southern France and Italy during 1957-1959 for natural enemies of Puncher vine.  The seed feeding weevil Microlarinus lareynii (Jacquelin deVal) and the stem and crown mining weevil M. lypriformis (Wollaston) were selected as the most promising candidates for use as biological control agents.  Field and laboratory studies conducted in France, Italy and California during 1959-1961 demonstrated that the adults fed on a wide range of plant species, but reproduction succeeded only on Puncher vine, other species of Tribulus, and a few herbaceous annual Zygophyllaceae native to the southwestern United States (Kallstroemia sp. Andrés & Angelet 1963).  Although minor concern was expressed over its potential detrimental effect on the native plants, this conflict of interest was resolved by weighing the potential benefits of biological control of Puncher vine against these potential losses.  Recognizing the need for action, both weevils were approved for release in compliance with less complicated federal regulatory procedures then in use.  Since their release, the weevils have been recorded feeding on some nonhost plants, but they reproduce only on Tribulus or closely related Zygophyllaceae (Andrés 1978).


       The immature stages of both weevils were described by Kirkland & Goeden (1977).  The biology of M. lareynii was described by Andrés & Angelet (1963) and Kirkland & Goeden (1978a); that of M. lypriformis by Andrés & Angelet (1963) and Kirkland & Goeden (1978b).  The egg of M. lareynii is deposited in a pit that is chewed in the pericarp of an immature fruit, occasionally in a floral bud or flower and capped with an anal secretion, often stained dark with feces.  The larva feeds on the seeds and surrounding tissues, destroying seeds directly by mastication or indirectly by inducing abortion.  Pupation occurs in an open cell in the fruit.  The adult chews an emergence hole between adjacent carpels.  The eggs hatch in 2-3 days; larval development lasts 13-16 days; the pupal stadium lasts 4-5 days in southern California.  The biology of M. lypriformis is similar, only most oviposition occurs in the undersides of the central, older parts of the prostrate, spreading, mat-like plants (i.e., root crowns, primary branches, and stem bases).  The young larvae tunnel into the pith, where they largely confine their feeding, eventually pupating in open cells in the larval mine.  The adult emerge from circular holes chewed mainly in the upper surfaces of stems, branches and crowns.  Both weevil species are multivoltine and produce a generation each month in the summer by reinfesting plants and attacking new plants as dispersed adults.  Both species overwinter as adults in reproductive diapause among surface debris, plant litter and on or around associate nonhost plant species.


       Weevil adults were initially imported from Italy and released directly in the field in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, Utah and Washington in July and August, 1961 (Huffaker et al. 1961, Andrés & Angelet 1963); establishment occurred in Arizona, California and Nevada (Maddox 1976).  The weevils established readily in California and spread rapidly and widely, aided by extensive transfers of field-collected adults (Goeden & Ricker 1967).  Maddox (1976) reported the subsequent spread and establishment of both weevils in Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah, and of the stem weevil in Florida as well as the spread of both weevils into Mexico.


       After the weevils became established in southern California, Goeden & Ricker (1967, 1970) reported substantial egg predation by native Heteroptera and larval and pupal parasitism by indigenous chalcidoid Hymenoptera.  Goeden & Kirkland (1981) assessed this predation in irrigated and nonirrigated field plants and determined that about half the seed weevil eggs infesting Puncher vine fruit were killed by egg predation that reduced fruit infestation rates from 50 to 25%.  Maddox (1981) determined that seed germination in infested fruit was drastically reduced.  Kirkland & Goeden (1978c) used the insecticide check method to assess the effects of both weevils acting in concert on irrigated and nonirrigated plants in field plots.  Their results showed that water stress was the principal cause of early season plant mortality, but weevil attack caused a 60% reduction of flower production on surviving plants in nonirrigated plots.  In addition, only half of these flowers on nonirrigated plants produced fruit late in the growing season.  Maddox (1981) also used insecticidal check plots to demonstrate that the stem weevils had a greater impact than the seed weevils on Puncher vine plants per se, as measured by stem growth rates, metered water stress and the biomass of whole plants.  Maddox (1981) and Huffaker et al. (1983) reported that seed weevils, largely acting alone in experimental field plots, increased flower production by puncture vine, which they attributed to "survival strategy" of the weevil.  Huffaker et al. (1983) reported that 15 years after introduction of the weevils, Puncher vine coverage and seed production declined in more than 80% of 1,200 field plots monitored in California.  They attributed this decline to the actions of both species of weevils.  The biological control of Puncher vine in California generally is considered a partial success or substantial success under field conditions where weevil attacks intensify moisture stress on nonirrigated plants (Maddox & Andrés 1979, Kirkland & Goeden 1978c, Julien 1982, Goeden & Andrés 1999).


       Puncher vine weevils also have been used in successful transfer projects, both species being transferred as field collected adults in 1962 from California to Hawaii, where Puncher vine and the perennial Tribulus cistoides L. were brought under complete biological control within a few years on all islands (Julien 1982).  Stem weevils subsequently were transferred to the island of St. Kitts in the West Indies from Hawaii in 1966, and seed weevils were transferred from southern California to St. Kitts in 1969.  The latter species failed to establish, but the former species alone provided complete control of T. cistoides (Julien 1982).


       For additional detail on biological control effort and biologies of hosts and natural enemies, please see the following (Munz & Keck 1959, Kingsbury 1964, Angalet & Andrés 1965, Davis & Krauss 1965, 1966, 1967; Davis 1966, Haselwood & Motter 1966, Ritcher 1966, Daniels & Wiese 1967).



REFERENCES:           [Additional references may be found at:   MELVYL Library ]


Andrés, L. A.  1978.  Biological control of Puncher vine, Tribulus terrestris (Zytgophyllaceae):  post introduction collection records of Microlarinus spp. (Coleoptera: Curculionidae), p. 132-36.  In:  T. E. Freeman (ed.), Proceedings of the IV Intern. Symposium on Biological Control of Weeds, 1976, Gainesville, Florida.


Andrés, L. A. & G. W. Angelet.  1963.  Notes on the ecology and host specificity of Microlarinus lareynii and M. lypriformis (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) and the biological control of puncture vine, Tribulus terrestris.  J. Econ. Ent. 56:  333-40.


Angalet, G. W. & L. A. Andrés.  1965.  Parasites of two weevils, Microlarinus lareynii and M. lypriformis, that feed on the puncture vine, Tribulus terrestris L.  J. Econ. Ent. 58:  1167-68.


Daniels, N. E. & A. F. Wiese.  1967.  Survival and spread of the puncture-vine seed weevil in Texas.  Tex. Agric. Expt. Sta. Misc. Pub. 827.  2 p.


Davis, C. J.  1966.  Progress report:  Biological control status of noxious weed pests in Hawaii-- 1965-1966.  Hawaii Dept. Agric. Rept.  4 p.


Davis, C. J. & N. L. H. Krauss.  1965.  Recent introductions for biological control in Hawaii-- X.  Hawaii. Ent. Soc. Proc. 19:  87-90.


Davis, C. J. & N. L. H. Krauss.  1966.  Recent introductions for biological control in Hawaii. Ent. Soc. Proc. 19:  201-07.


Davis, C. J. & N. L. H. Krauss.  1967.  Recent introductions for biological control in Hawaii-- XI.  Hawaii. Ent. Soc. Proc. 19:  375-80.


Goeden, R. D. & L. A. Andrés.  1999.  Biological control of weeds in terrestrial and aquatic environments.  In:  Bellows, T. S. & T. W. Fisher (eds.), Handbook of Biological Control:  Principles and Applications.  Academic Press, San Diego, New York.  1046 p.


Goeden, R. D. & R. L. Kirkland.  1981.  Interactions of field populations of indigenous egg predators, imported Microlarinus weevils, and Puncture Vine in southern California, p. 515-27.  In:  E. S. Delfosse (ed.), Proceedings of the V International Symposium on Biological Control of Weeds, 1980, Brisbane, Australia.


Goeden, R. D. & D. W. Ricker.  1967.  Geocoris pallens found to be predaceous on Microlarinus spp. introduced to California for the biological control of Puncher vine, Tribulus terrestris.  J. Econ. Ent. 60:  725-29.


Goeden, R. D. & D. W. Ricker.  1970.  Parasitization of introduced Puncture Vine weevils by indigenous Chalcidoidea in southern California.  J. Econ. Ent. 63:  827-31.


Goeden, R. D. & D. W. Ricker.  1973.  A soil profile analysis for Puncture Vine fruit and seed.  Weed Sci. 21:  504-07.


Haselwood, E. L. & G. G. Motter.  1966.  Handbook of Hawaiian Weeds.  Hawaii. Sugar Planters Assoc. Expt. Sta.  479 p.


Huffaker, C. B., D. Ricker & C. Kennett.  1961.  Biological control of puncture vine with imported weevils.  Calif. Agric. 15:  11-12.


Huffaker, C. B., J. Hamai & R. M. Nowierski.  1983.  Biological control of Puncher vine, Tribulus terrestris in California after twenty years of activity of introduced weevils.  Entomophaga 28:  387-400.


Johnson, E.  1932.  The puncture vine in California.  Univ. Calif. Col. Agric. Expt. Sta. Bull. 528.  42 p.


Julien, M. H. (ed.).  1982.  Biological control of weeds:  a world catalogue of agents and their target weeds, 1st ed.  Commonw. Agric. Bur., Slough, U.K.  108 p.


Kingsbury, J. M.  1964.  Poisonous Plants of the United States and Canada.  Prentice-Hall, Inc., New Jersey.  626 p.


Kirkland, R. L. & R. D. Goeden.  1977.  Descriptions of the immature stages of imported Puncher vine weevils, Microlarinus lareynii and M. lypriformis.  Ann. Ent. Soc. Amer. 70:  583-87.


Kirkland, R. L. & R. D. Goeden.  1978a.  Biology of Microlarinus lareynii (Col.: Curculionidae) on Puncher vine in southern California.  Ann. Ent. Soc. Amer. 70:  13-18.


Kirkland, R. L. & R. D. Goeden.  1978b.  Biology of Microlarinus lypriformis (Col.: Curculionidae) on Puncher vine in southern California.  Ann. Ent. Soc. Amer. 70:  65-69.


Kirkland, R. L. & R. D. Goeden.  1978c.  An insecticidal-check study of the biological control of Puncher vine (Tribulus terrestris) by imported weevils, Microlarinus lareynii and M. lypriformis (Col.: Curculionidae).  Environ. Ent. 7:  349-54.


Maddox, D. M.  1976.  History of weevils on Puncher vine in and near the United States.  Weed Sci. 24: 414-16.


Maddox, D. M.  1981.  Seed and stem weevils of Puncher vine:  a comparative study of impact, interaction, and insect strategy, p. 447-67.  In:  E. S. Delfosse (ed.), Proceedings V International Symposium on Biological Control of Weeds, 1980, Brisbane, Australia.


Maddox, D. M. & L. A. Andrés.  1979.  Status of Puncher vine weevils and their host plants in California.  Calif. Agric. 33:  7-8.


Munz, P. A. & D. D. Keck.  1959.  A California Flora.  Calif. Univ. Press, Berkeley, CA.  1681 p.


Ritcher, P. O.  1966.  Biological control of insects and weeds in Oregon.  Oreg. Agric. Expt. Sta. Tech. Bull. 90.  39 p.