Bidens pilosa: Beggarticks

Family: Asteraceae
Common name: Beggarticks, Black-Jack, Cobbler’s pegs, Spanish needle, Farmer’s friends

This common weed seen in India has so many interesting names, mostly due to the shape of its seeds. Beggarticks are annual shrubs growing in hilly and disturbed areas, growing to height of 1.5 to 2 meters.

They also grow well in sandy or loamy soil, roadsides and on agricultural areas, hampering the growth of saplings and plants. They are considered as invasive weeds since they produce a large number of seeds, proliferating rapidly filling large areas.

Beggartick leaves are small and green, with distinct teeth around the edges. The plants are covered with white flowers mostly during summer and autumn, but flowering all through the year in warmer regions.

Flowers have 5 distinct white petals, which are ray florets seen towards the other edges of the flower. Numerous yellow disk florets are seen towards the center of the flower, which later develop into seeds.

The seeds are very uniquely shaped with many small black sticks, about 1cm long radiating upwards from the stalk. The ends of these sticks have 2-3 hooked barbs, that look like the ends of fishhooks.

These hooks help the seeds to attach themselves to animal fur, bird feathers and clothing, thus ensuring dispersal to far away areas, allowing the plant to take over newer locations. These seeds are quite sharp and can cause injury to skin if it scratches against the skin. The plants are called Cobbler’s pegs and Spanish needle because of the unique shape of these seeds.

Beggartick leaves can be eaten raw, or cooked and used in stews and soups. The plants are good source of iodine. Leaves and young shoots are used to make herbal tea; also dried and stored for later use.

They have some medicinal uses, in treatment of wounds, ulcers, stomach ailments, bacterial infections, jaundice and respiratory ailments.

Propagation is from seeds and stem cuttings, as they readily root at the nodes.

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