Crassocephalum crepidioides, Red flower ragweed

Family: Asteraceae
Common name: Red flower ragweed, Thickhead, Ebolo, Redflower ragleaf, Fireweed, Okinawa Spinach

A very commonly seen weed plant in India, Red flower ragweeds are common on farmlands, wastelands, roadsides, open areas, and almost anywhere. They grow to a height of about 150 cm with an erect succulent stem.

The stem and leaves are soft, succulent, green, and covered with fine white hairs. Lower leaves are lobed, about 8-10 cms long, but upper leaves are smaller with serrated margins, without lobes.

Flowers are held on small red flower heads that are about .5 cm in diameter. The cylindrical flowerheads are slightly bulbous towards the base with a few black and white spiny projections from the sepal cups.

These flower heads are packed with thin, long florets that are white with red tips, making the flowers distinctly reddish. When the flowers mature they open up to form small white pom-pom balls with hundreds of seeds, that can be dispersed by wind.

The abundant seed production in Red flowers ragweed plants ensures that they can spread quickly over large areas, giving them the reputation for being highly invasive. They can be easily removed through hand-picking or with herbicides, though other plants would grow soon from the dispersed seeds.

Redflower ragweed plants are edible and are used in soups, and curries especially in Africa. These plants are seen in most tropical countries since they are tolerant of droughts, rainfall, heat, humidity, and poor soil conditions.

Tender parts of the plant are used as vegetables, and they also have some medicinal uses. Leaves are used to treat stomach ailments, indigestion, wounds, cuts, inflammation, headache, and nose bleeding. Roots are also edible and are used in the treatment of cuts and wounds.

But plant contains some toxins and must be eaten with caution. They are usually cooked with onions, tomatoes, and other vegetables in stews, soups, and curries.

Propagation is through seeds.