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September: Bio-regional Herb of the Month

Bioregional plants are generally also native plants. For the purposes of Witchcraft, I consider bioregional plants anything that grows naturally where I live, including non-native and 'invasive' species. I do not advocate cultivating any plant that is harmful to your local ecosystem, but I do strongly believe in using what's available. You can find and use up wild sources of plants that you wouldn't necessarily try to grow in your own garden. This month's bioregional herb is exactly the kind of non-native plant I'm talking about.

Tribulus terrestris

aka Fucking Goatheads

Goatheads are small thorn-clusters that get into bike tires, shoe soles and even pet paws. If they get tracked into your home on the bottom of your shoes you're at risk of stepping on them in your bare feet and you WILL die. I mean, not literally. They just hurt like a motherfucker and you will be traumatized enough to never walk confidently barefoot in your own home or yard ever again and that's basically a kind of small death. So.

Right now the fruits are maturing and some pods are already starting to dry out. That's when they truly become the bane of everyone's existence who happens upon them. I got two in my shoe on my morning walk just this week, so prepare yourselves, because it's fucking Goathead season, Witches.

The genus name, “Tribulus”, is Latin for "three-pointed, a caltrop," the shape of which is suggested by the three-pronged fruit, and referring to the caltrop, a military weapon, an iron ball with projecting spikes.

The species name, “terrestris”, is Latin for "on land". Put together, the scientific name can translate to “tribulation of the earth” which refers to the fact that it is not native, spreads rapidly, and has very sharp seeds that will fuck you over in all the ways you didn't ask for.

Goatheads are aggressive and hardy invasives where I live and so we aren't planting them on purpose. They were unintentionally introduced to North America and so now this is our life I guess. Even though they are native to warm temperate and tropical regions, for shits and giggles they were like, 'Nah, we don't need rain or year-round heat' and then went and adapted to thrive in dry climates where few other plants can survive, like where I live in the desert. I mean, THE AUDACITY of these bitches.

They can be found in lots of places including your neighborhood sidewalk cracks, neglected areas, alleys and disturbed areas. I've seen them growing right next to or intertwined with Purslane and if you don't know your plants well enough it's possible to confuse them for one another at certain stages of growth.

Because of the small woody fruit – the bur – being such an asshole to crop workers, pedestrians, bicycle tires, and animals it's considered a noxious weed. And I get it. It deserves the title. Like, it REALLY deserves it. Not trynna fight nobody over it. We can agree to agree on this one.

Common Names

Depending on what part of the world you find a goathead, the locals have different common names for them, including:

  • goat's-head/ goathead

  • bindii

  • bullhead

  • burra gokharu

  • bhakhdi

  • ohshit-godsdamnit-motherfuckers

  • caltrop/ small caltrops

  • cat's-head

  • devil's eyelashes

  • devil's-thorn

  • devil's-weed

  • puncture vine

  • tackweed

The Monster Behind the Mask

The fruit clusters give almost squish mellow vibes, all round and puffy and almost cartoon-like. They look like a five-pointed star, a perfect pentagram, when intact. As a Witch this gives me heart-bubbles in the eyes and I want to hold it and pet it and love it and take it home.

Then they show you who they truly are. And when someone shows you who they are, BELIEVE THEM.

<insert maniacal laugh>

Goathead fruits break apart after the flowers bloom, and instead of one large fruity-thorn cluster they become five smaller spiny pieces with two to four sharp points on each section. In this form they look very much like goat heads or devil horns. They are not squish mellow at all! To make matters even more egregious, the bur spines point *upward* when they fall or scatter, where they are perfectly positioned to stab stab stab anything or anyone who walks past like the tiny psycho serial-killers they are.

I mean. Look at this shit.

The seeds of this plant are hardy AF. They stay viable for years and that makes them a real bitch to eradicate. They. Just. Won't. Die. It takes a multi-years approach and strategy to really knock these down and get rid of them, like a minimum of three years, peoples, and you have to stay vigilant or else they WILL be back.


In some Asian countries parts of the Goathead plant are used for food and sometimes medicine. There is some evidence that they are mildly toxic, especially to some livestock, and possibly our livers when ingested. Overall there's not much to support that humans are in any real or immediate danger of toxicity or poisoning from this plant unless we're eating it regularly.

Other than the occasional prick when handling the spiny fruits, I have never had a reaction or problem working with Goatheads. Of course my experience may differ from yours, so wear gloves when working with this plant until or unless you know it's safe for you to do otherwise. And just, you know, probably don't eat it.


By now you have probably developed some anxiety-riddled nightmares and/or serious aversions to this plant, and I want you to know I hear you, and I see you. Your feelings on this matter are valid. I understand.

And that is exactly why it's SUCH a great plant to work with in your Witchcraft. This is THE perfect plant to make everything and everyone fuck all the way off.

The primary ways I want you to consider working with this plant include:

  • Protection

  • Banishing

  • Baneful Magick - Cursework

These are the ways I personally have worked with Goatheads and they are honestly a motherfucking DELIGHT to partner with when it comes to magickal pursuits.

Goatheads are perfect in blends and spells that seek to banish or eliminate people, things or threats. They are highly protective and make it very unpleasant for anyone or anything you want to stay away from you. They work pretty well on Spiritual activity but I have found they work BEST when employed to cause pain to an enemy or create conflict between people.

A Few Ideas for Uses

  • Add them to a Witch bottle that traps or wards against hexes, the evil eye or unwelcome Spirits.

  • Include them in a floor wash blend for your front porch, windows or doors to keep energies and unwelcome energies out.

  • Poke them into the sides of candles in a pattern, sigil, or write out your enemy's name

  • Add them to banishing incense blends

  • Put them in with your War Water to create conflict and infighting

  • Carry a small vial with a few pieces for protection, or hang in your car (safely)

  • Use to scribe into wax

  • Add to a wax poppet or stuff inside a poppet

  • Dip into blood, bodily fluids, dyes, inks or paint and write with one of the spikes for a protection or cursing spell

There are a lot of ways you can incorporate Goatheads into your practice and I know you can think of many more!

Why Use Goatheads?

There are many things you can use for protection, banishing and baneful work. This is just one possible tool for you. What makes Goatheads especially desirable to me is they are local to where I live (bioregional) and I felt an immediate connection to them when I first encountered them.

If it's a choice between something I have to order online or buy in a store, I'll always try to wildcraft it when possible. But more than that, working with the local Goatheads helps keep me connected to the Land just like when I work with other wild plants.

The fact that it's so painfully difficult to get rid of makes this even more suited for Witchcraft because any counter-measures or hard-hitting magicks being done to cancel this out will be so completely useless. Mwahahahaaaaa!

One very real and key reason to use Goatheads in your practice is they WORK. If they didn't, or if they were so-so, I'd say take-it or leave-it. But this plant gets the job done and I can't really give a plant higher praise than that. That's all we can hope for.

Collecting & Drying

I collect mine while they are still plump fruits on the vine. Then I dry them at home. This helps ensure they don't break apart anywhere they aren't supposed to. You can just lay them out for a couple weeks on some parchment on a table or in sheet pan and let them air dry. You can also use a dehydrator or low oven (170 F or less). I know they are dry when the fruits are a yellow-ish color and break apart into smaller spines.

I keep some of the leaves and vines along with the dried fruit which are now the pokey prods. Some break apart through handling or the drying process, but many of the dried fruits remain intact and keep their star shape.

I store the dried Goatheads in a mason jar. If whole stars remain I just leave them whole and wait until I need them to break them up.

Since I add these to certain potions I make, the whole star doesn't fit inside the smaller jar openings, so I use one of the broken off caltrop pieces. To break these apart by hand you just need to be careful and get a feel for the plant and its energies to avoid getting stabbed. I generally don't get poked but that's from years of learning how to handle them. You'll figure it out. The stars can be very hard to pry apart and it takes force sometimes. Be smart about it and you'll be fine.

The Spirit of Goatheads

Despite their highly invasive and prickly nature, the Spirit of these plants are surprisingly friendly. You heard me right. Friendly. I said what I said. You'd think they'd be angry little shits but they really aren't. At least that's been my experience with them. I think if you take the time to form a relationship with them you might get a similar vibe.

I've worked with Goatheads for enough years and taken the time to understand my little pokey peeps that they bring such an eager and happy (?), I really want to say happy here, energy to any collaboration I ask them to participate in with me. I feel like it's paid off bigtime and yielded such magnificent results in my spellcraft.

Goatheads are horrifyingly formidable against any enemy, and yet transform into the equivalent of a fluffy cat that flops on its side for you to pet their belly when you are allies. You still might get gently clawed but there's no malice or ill intent toward you, their benevolent giver of scritches.

They are the perfect ally to aid me in any kind of work that repels, wards, removes, tortures, rains down misery and pain, aggitates, and dozens of other seriously badass works in pursuit of taking nobody's shit.

Some baneful herbs or plants don't enjoy being used for cursework or harming people. It makes them sad. They don't want to participate. I don't use those plants that way when their Spirit says otherwise. There are also baneful plants that get sick, sick, twisted pleasure from being total jerks. I have uses for those ones, too.

Goatheads are a whole different category. They gleefully like to be included, don't feel bad about their nature in any way, and aren't intentionally malicious, even to your enemies. They just happen to be baneful by nature, and they are so full of self-love and acceptance it doesn't bother them. They can still be happy and fuck up your day. And they are happy to do it!! They like it!!

Now of course, my relationship with the Spirit of this plant may be just me or all in my head. I fully accept that possibility. I don't think that's what's happening but I'm always open to that being the reality. Feel free to have your own personal relationship with Goatheads, though, and see where it takes you!!

I hope this month's Bioregional Herb gives you some new ideas and resources for your Witchcraft. If you work with this plants I'd love to hear about your experiences. Write to me here if you would like to share!


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