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Bathurst bur is a spiny plant that grows up to 1m tall; it has well-branched upright stems with triple spines grouped in opposite pairs. The leaves are three-pronged, narrow and pointed with a white midrib above and a whitish colour on the underside. Bathurst bur has inconspicuous flowers and the fruit are bur-like with hooked spines.
Bathurst bur can adapt to a wide range of climatic conditions, although it prefers moist soil, as it has a high water requirement. It is usually found on fertile, disturbed or bare ground, particularly in pasture and cultivated areas.
Bathurst bur is a highly invasive weed and can quickly dominate large areas, out-competing crops, forage plants and native flora. It spreads entirely by seeds, which are within the spiny burs. Seed may lie dormant for many years before germinating, forming a very long-lived seed bank.