Large cocklebur

Large cocklebur

Xanthium strumarium (Asteraceae)

Common Name:

Large cocklebur

Scientific Name:

Xanthium strumarium (Asteraceae)

Alternative common names:

Kankerroos (Afrikaans); hlaba-hlabane (Sesotho)  


This is an herbaceous shrub growing up to 1,2m high. The erect stems are brownish or reddish-brown, often with red spots, ribbed and roughly downy. The leaves are dull green, and broad, three-lobed with serrated margins and downy on both sides. Brownish burrs up to 2cm long crowned with two stout horns and covered with hooked spines up to 4mm long.

Additional Information

Where does this species come from?

South America.

What is its invasive status in South Africa?

Existing legislation: CARA 2002 - Category 1 Proposed legislation: NEMBA - Category 1b

Where in South Africa is it a problem?

Throughout all provinces in South Africa, particularly the eastern regions.

How does it spread?

Seed dispersal.

Why is it a problem?

Competes with crop plants and indigenous species along riverbanks. Its spiny burs adhere to the wool of sheep wool and becomes entwined in tails, manes and coats of domestic livestock, causing the animals much discomfort. The seedlings are particularly toxic to domestic livestock. It readily invades overgrazed pastures and spreads at the expense of the indigenous species.

What does it look like?

General description Herbaceous shrubby plant with large floppy leaves and a green to reddish-brown stem which is slightly hairy and often spotted with red.
Leaves Large, broad, three-lobed leaves with serrated margins, dull green in colour and somewhat downy on both sides.
Flowers Small green flowers in the leaf axils appear in summer.
Fruit/seeds Spiky, cone-shaped burs up to 20mm long, green turning yellowish then brown.

Does the plant have any uses?

None - this plant is a weed.

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