Spiny cocklebur

Spiny cocklebur

Xanthium spinosum (Asteraceae)

Common Name:

Spiny cocklebur

Scientific Name:

Xanthium spinosum (Asteraceae)

Alternative common names:

Bathurstbush, burweed, clotbur, dagger cocklebur (English); boetebossie, pinotiebossie (Afrikaans); hlaba-hlabane (Sesotho); iligcume (isiZulu); lepero (Tsonga) 


A many branched annual growing up to 1,2m high. Yellowish or brownish-grey, downy stems. Green leaves which are densely white-woolly beneath and sparsely downy above. Each leaf base is armed with a yellow, three-pronged spine up to 2cm long. Pale yellowish burrs covered with spines.

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.

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 and become 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: An annual herbaceous plant with many branches growing up to 1,2m high and having three-lobed lance-shaped leaves with smooth margins.
Leaves: Green leaves which are densely white-woolly beneath and sparsely downy above.
Flowers: Small greenish flowers occurring in the axils of the leaves during summer.
Fruit/seeds: Oval-shaped spiny burs about 10 mm long, green, with reddish, hooked spines, turning yellowish then brown.

Does the plant have any uses?

None - this plant is a weed.

Leave a Reply