Plant Profile Cocklebur

Native to the America’s Western Hemisphere and Eastern Asia’ s Northern Hemisphere, the Cockleburs are a genus of flowering plant in the Asteraceae family.

They have leaves and stems that die at the end of the growing season but before that, the Cocklebur will have reached heights somewhere between one and four feet tall. The leaves are arranged in a spiral fashion and in some species thorny like needles can be found attached to the base of each leaf. Two different types of flowers are produced by the Cocklebur; one is produced on the inside of the branches and is responsible for pollination. The other flower is created within the leaves clusters and is responsible for reproducing the seed. The Cocklebur only reproduces by seed and the means in which the seed attaches to its host, makes the spreading of this flower very difficult to preserve. The Cocklebur produces a seed unlike that in other seeding flower specie, the Cocklebur’s seed is hard with little thorns which attach themselves to clothing and animal fur, that are very difficult to get out.

Cocklebur’s only bloom their flowers towards the end of the summer season and into the beginning of fall, the time when the length of the days start to get shorter. However in more tropical climates they have been found to flower for a longer period of time, due to longer day lengths.

The Cocklebur is considered an invasive species all across the world and is toxic to agricultural lands, livestock and although most domesticated animals will avoid munching of the Cocklebur, it has been known to happen and is toxic in that situation as well. However animals with no pickiness to what the feed on will consume the Cocklebur plant become very sick and eventually die. An animal that in the  unlikely event ingests the plant will being to show signs within hours and those  signs consist of unsteadiness, depression, vomiting, rapid  and weak pulse, as well as neck muscle twitching. The now extinct species of bird the Carolina Parakeet is suspected of dying off because much of their diet included the seeds of the Cocklebur.

The Cocklebur plant does however have some good attributes as well, from medicinal to cosmetic uses. The plant is also a helpful weed, in that it is great at repelling worms and garden pests from other plants. Some Asian species of the Cocklebur plant are used in traditional medicines and the seed oil is safe for humans to consume.