Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the August 8, 2005 Newsletter issued from the Sierra Nevada foothills somewhat east of Placerville, California, USA

Thursday afternoon my friend Buck came down on his motorcycle carrying a weed for me to identify. I thought I'd seen such a thing in Spain and Italy so it was a surprise seeing Buck carrying it. Wanting to confirm my identification we went onto the Internet and I got another surprise: It's a very famous plant among bodybuilders!

The plant was TRIBULUS TERRESTRIS, known in English by a variety of names, Puncturevine apparently the most common. The medicinal herb sites say it cures all kinds of miseries, but after Googling it you have to plow through a couple of pages of links to bodybuilding websites before you start seeing pages dealing with its other virtues.

Bodybuilders like the plant because extracts of it are considered to increase the body's production of Luteinizing Hormone, which in turn triggers natural testosterone production, and of course testosterone is the male sex hormone. One site offers 100 tablets for $27.95. You can read all about this at http://www.bodybuilding.com/store/trib.html and you can see the yellow-flowered plant itself at here.

After bodybuilding websites, the main kinds of sites dealing with Puncturevine are those relating to invasive plants. Puncturevine, originally from the Mediterranean region, is prohibited in Arizona and in California is considered a "C-List Noxious Weed." Being C-Listed here means that an invasive is so widespread that in most cases the state won't fund projects to eradicate it.

This is not the kind of information Buck was looking for. He was interested in the plant because his bees love its dime-size, yellow flowers, and he was thinking of getting seeds and planting a whole field of them! Sure enough, when we Googled the key words bees and puncturevine, we found that the plant produces copious, high grade pollen and nectar. The problem is with the puncture part of its name. The plant's small fruits bear very stiff, sharp spines that can puncture a bike's tire, and you can imagine what would happen to a cow's gut if a single fruit were included in a bale of hay.

So, I'm not sure what Buck is going to do with all this information. As he climbed back onto his motorcycle he had that look in his eye of an old farmer unexpectedly finding himself sitting on a park bench next to a Las Vegas stripper.