Substances & Homeopatic Remedies

Xanthium spinosum

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xanthium spinosum, L.


Xanthium is derived from the Greek, xanthos, meaning "yellow" and is thought to refer to a yellow dye obtainable from some species


Traditional name

Spiny Cocklebur 

Used parts

From the seeds


Plantae; Spermatophyta, Angiospermae - Flowering Plants; Dicotyledonae; Asteridae / Synandrae; Asterales; Compositae / Asteraceae - Composites / Daisy or Sunflower Family


Original proving

Description of the substance

Plant Communities:  Many, including Ruderal
Habitats:  Dry, sunny, weedy waste areas; in disturbed places like cultivated land
Elevations:  10-2000'
Comments:  Native, noxious weed
Description and Variation: Spiny cocklebur is an erect, much branched annual that grows up to three feet high. It reproduces by seed. About one inch long spines are found in leaf axils and at stem nodes. The leaves are shiny dark green and hairy on the upper surface and downy beneath. The leaves are mostly three-lobed with the center lobe  much longer than the other two, and up to three inches long. The flowers are small, inconspicuous, and creamy green. The male flowers are found at the top of the stems and the female flowers are formed lower on the stems. The fruit is more or less an egg-shaped burr, up to one-half inch long, armed with numerous hooked spines, some with one or two straight terminal spines. There are two seeds per burr, flattened, three-eighths inch long and brown in color.
Beneficial: Compounds from spiny cocklebur may have pharmaceutical value as diuretics.
Habitat: Spiny cocklebur is adapted to a variety of climates, hence its wide distribution. It is found in a wide variety of soil types growing in cultivated fields, wastelands, farm yards, flood plains, and along waterways.
Geographic Distribution: Spiny cocklebur is native to Chile. It is now widespread in the warm and temperate regions of the world, occurring commonly in Europe, Asia, North and South Africa, North and South America, and Australia.
History: Spiny cocklebur was introduced into the United States from South America. It was probably brought in as burrs attached to livestock. It has since spread along the east and west coasts and the Gulf coast.
Growth and Development: Morphology - the numerous hooked spines of the fruit enable it to adhere to animals and be transported long distances. Perennation - Overwintering occurs in the seed stage. Phenology - The seeds germinate after late spring and summer rains, or irrigation and the young plants grow quickly. The plants flower in summer and bear fruit until killed by fall frosts.
Reproduction: Spiny cockelbur reproduces by seeds only. Seed Production and Dispersal - The seeds are well adapted for dispersal by livestock or people because of the hooked spines on the fruit. Viability of Seeds and Germination - Of the two seeds in each burr, one germinates the first spring or summer and the other does not germinate until the second or third year. Some seeds may remain viable for up to eight years. Population Dynamics - Spiny cocklebur can spread rapidly to infest new areas because of its ability to be spread by livestock. The plant may persist in an area for a long time due to the long-lived seeds in the soil.
Response to Cultural Methods: On arable land, cultivation is effective against the seedlings. This should be repeated periodically for at least three years. Mowing or slashing are effective if done prior to burr formation.

The Nature Conservancy
Element Stewardship Abstract
For Xanthium spinosum

Xanthium spinosum is an erect, rigid, much-branched annual herb, 3-10 dm tall and up to 15 dm or more wide.  Stems are striate, yellowish or brownish gray, and finely pubescent.  The cotyledons are linear-lanceolate in shape, differing in appearance from later
developing leaves.  True leaves are lanceolate, entire, toothed or lobed, 3-8 cm long, 6-26 mm wide, glabrous or strigose above, and silvery-tomentulose beneath.  They are dull gray-green above with a conspicuous white midrib and short petioles (1 cm).  Each leaf base is armed at the axil with yellow three-pronged spines 2-5 cm long, often opposite in pairs.  

Flower heads are in axillary clusters or often solitary.  Flowers are inconspicuous, greenish, and monoecious; male flowers in almost globular heads in axils of upper most leaves, and female flowers in axils of lower leaves, developing into a bur.  The bur is two--celled, oblong, nearly egg-shaped, slightly flattened, 10-13 mm long, 4 mm wide, pale yellowish, more or less striate, glandular, covered with slender, hooked, glabrous spines from more or less thickened bases, with the two apical beaks short and straight.  Each bur contains two flattened, thick-coated, dark brown or black seeds, the lower germinating first.