Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Common Cocklebur
Xanthium strumarium

Family: Asteraceae (ass-ter-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Xanthium (ZAN-thee-um) (Info)
Species: strumarium (stroo-MAR-ee-um) (Info)

One member has or wants this plant for trade.


36-48 in. (90-120 cm)

18-24 in. (45-60 cm)

Not Applicable

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade

Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:
Pale Green

Bloom Time:
Mid Summer
Late Summer/Early Fall


Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse
From seed; stratify if sowing indoors

Seed Collecting:
Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds
Wear gloves to protect hands when handling seeds
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

Click thumbnail
to view:

By melody
Thumbnail #1 of Xanthium strumarium by melody

By melody
Thumbnail #2 of Xanthium strumarium by melody

By marwood0
Thumbnail #3 of Xanthium strumarium by marwood0

By Zaragoza
Thumbnail #4 of Xanthium strumarium by Zaragoza


No positives
3 neutrals
2 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Neutral sladeofsky On Apr 16, 2008, sladeofsky from Louisville, KY (Zone 6b) wrote:

This was the favorite food of the Carolina Parakeet. They would consume great quantities of the seeds. There beeks were specially designed to tear through the spiny seed pods. As the native parrot declined and eventually became extinct, the number of cockleburs swifttly climbed. Now the Eastern US has no parrots but plenty of these pesky plants.

Neutral marwood0 On Apr 16, 2008, marwood0 from Golden, CO (Zone 5b) wrote:

A nice looking plant when green, looking like a short squat sunflower bush without the nice flowers. Very hardy and can grow in a wide range of conditions. Supposedly, each seed pod has two seeds, one of which will sprout the first year and one the second year. Be careful not to let this plant get away from you; I would pull it and harvest or eliminate it before the seed pods get too dry; when dry they break off easily and you might wind up with these tough spiney seed pods everywhere in your lawn, on your dog, on your kids, on your clothes, and eventually inside your house and peircing your family's skin. The seed pods are known to contain a toxin used as a chinese medicine, most of which is contained in the thorns. Removing the thorns by burning or grinding apparently gets rid of most of the toxin. Consuming large quantities of the seed pods over time has been known to cause liver damage. When burned, the smoke from the seed pod thorns gives off a pleasant, somewhat attractive smoke, it reminds me of a flavored cheap cigar. The smoke from the thorns doesn't last long and the smoke from burning the regular seed pods and branches does not have quite the same attraction, at least to me. Overall I would not consider this a very useful plant, and if not strictly controlled, it can (and will) be quite a problem.

Negative melody On Jan 23, 2005, melody from Benton, KY (Zone 7a) wrote:

A common weed of barnyards and cultivated fields. It is considered invasive in many states.

The stickery seed pods will attach themselves to animal fur or clothing and get a free ride to where they will sprout and grow with abandon.

The plants can get quite large and produce many spiney seed pods....they are considered quite dangerous if livestock ingest them.

Negative cherishlife On Nov 13, 2004, cherishlife from Pocola, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

Arkansas has this plant listed as a noxious weed in the site.

Neutral smiln32 On Aug 31, 2002, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

This plant is considered a noxious weed in IA and considered invasive in many other states.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Golden, Colorado
Springfield, Colorado
Benton, Kentucky
Louisville, Kentucky
Glouster, Ohio

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