Xanthium strumarium, Common Cocklebur

Gardens & Landscapes, Invasive Species, Extension Master Gardener September 20, 2012 Print Friendly and PDF

Invasive Species: Xanthium strumarium, Common Cocklebur

Common cocklebur is an invasive annual herb, with several regional varieties, some possibly native to North America. Historically, the seeds were eaten by the Carolina parakeet, which is now extinct. Plants can reach 5 ft. (1.5 m) tall with thick, reddish or black spotted stems. Leaves are alternate, triangular, weakly 3-lobed and 1.2 to 7 in. (3 to 18 cm) long. Flowering occurs in July to October when flowers develop in the axils of the leaves. Fruit are ellipsoid burs. Burs are 0.6 to 1.4 in. (1.5 to 3.5 cm) long, green to yellowish brown, and covered with projecting, stout prickles. Cocklebur occurs in ditches, fields, riparian areas, pastures, croplands, seasonal wetlands, and other disturbed areas. Cocklebur is found worldwide. Some cocklebur species may be native to the Americas, but it has caused many problems in agriculture and both seeds and seedlings are toxic to livestock, making it an undesirable weed.

What are invasive species and why should we be concerned about them? 


Taxonomy: Scientific and Common Names for This Species

Asterales > Asteraceae > Xanthium strumarium L.

Synonym(s): cocklebur, cockleburr, rough cocklebur

Xanthium strumarium - USDA PLANTS Profile

Distribution Maps

Common cocklebur - The reported distribution of this invasive species across the United States (Source: Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States)

Up-to-the-minute distribution maps and why they are important 

Reporting This Invasive Species

What is the best way and place to report the occurrence of an invasive species? 

 How to report an invasive species sighting to EDDMapS - Early Detection & Distribution Mapping System

EDDMapS - Report an invasive species to EDDMapS

Cooperative Extension Offices - Find your local Cooperative Extension office on this map provided by USDA.

How to Identify

This invasive species can be identified by looking for the characteristics described in the paragraphs that follow.

Plant

Plants can reach 5 ft. (1.5 m) tall with thick, reddish or black spotted stems.

David J. Moorhead, University of Georgia, bugwood.org Robert Videki, Doronicum Kft., bugwood.org

Foliage

Leaves are alternate, triangular, weakly 3-lobed, and 1.2 to 7 in. (3 to 18 cm) long.

Robert Videki, Doronicum Kft.,  bugwood.org Bruce Ackley, Ohio State University, bugwood.org

Flower

Flowering occurs in July to October when flowers develop in the axils of the leaves.

Phil Westra, Colorado State University, bugwood.org David J. Moorhead, University of Georgia,  bugwood.org

Fruit

Fruit are ellipsoid burs. Burs are 0.6 to 1.4 in. (1.5 to 3.5 cm) long, green to yellowish brown, and covered with projecting, stout prickles.

John M. Randall, The Nature Conservancy, bugwood.org Jan Samanek, State Phytosanitary Administration, bugwood.org

Native Species That Can Resemble Common Cocklebur

- Images at invasive.org

   
bugwood.org bugwood.org

- Images at invasive.org

   
bugwood.org bugwood.org

Additional Images for Common Cocklebur

Common cocklebur - Images at Invasive.org

Additional Information, Biology, Control and Management Resources

Control and management recommendations vary according to individual circumstances. Location, habitat, weather, and a variety of other conditions are factors that help determine the best treatment choice. To find the safest and most effective treatment for your situation, consult your state's land-grant institution. If you will use chemicals as part of the control process, always refer to the product label.

United States Land-Grant University System - Find your land-grant university's college of agriculture, Cooperative Extension office, or other related partner on this map provided by USDA.

Element Stewardship Abstract - The Nature Conservancy

Identification: Weed Photo Gallery - IPM Online, University of California

Invasive Species Compendium (Beta) - cabi.org

USGS Weeds in the West project: Status of Introduced Plants in Southern Arizona Parks - USGS National Park Service

Xanthium strumarium - Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER)


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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.