Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Shepherd's Needles, Butterfly Needles, Romerillo
Bidens alba var. radiata

Family: Asteraceae (ass-ter-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Bidens (BY-denz) (Info)
Species: alba var. radiata

Synonym:Bidens pilosa var. radiata
Synonym:Bidens leucantha
Synonym:Coreopsis leucantha
Synonym:Kerneria pilosa
Synonym:Kernia leucantha

7 members have or want this plant for trade.


18-24 in. (45-60 cm)
24-36 in. (60-90 cm)
36-48 in. (90-120 cm)

18-24 in. (45-60 cm)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun


Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Blooms all year
Blooms repeatedly


Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings
Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season

Soil pH requirements:
Unknown - Tell us

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
From seed; sow indoors before last frost
From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:
Unknown - Tell us

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There are a total of 13 photos.
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4 positives
3 neutrals
1 negative

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive gtbabic On Nov 1, 2013, gtbabic from The Villages, FL wrote:

Someone else wrote "love/hate". That is perfect. For me, the over-riding "love" features are that small butterflies (skippers, hairstreaks, etc.) absolutely love it, and the plentiful small white flowers are attractive. The flip side is that it really is a weed, found in sandy / poor soil often near drainage ponds. Intentionally planted in a watered garden, it explodes. It flowers from spring through frost; it spreads everywhere, though the seedlings are not hard to pick up; the toothed seeds from which it gets its Latin name stick to any cotton-like fabric and also hurt if they work their way through the clothing. It can grow to 6+ feet but mine seem to prefer spreading sideways. It fills in empty spots in the garden, does not appear to be squeezing out anything else; and as noted the butterflies (and bees) love it. So it is OK in my "natural" native garden - in another situation it may not be the best choice. I actually bought one from a native nursery specifically for butterflies before I realized they were growing all around a pond near my yard! Note - I have usually seen this called Spanish Needles, but I see DG refers to another plant with that name.

Neutral Gryphon78 On Nov 4, 2012, Gryphon78 from Leesburg, FL wrote:

Talk about a love/hate relationship! Who needs a butterfly garden with these weeds around! Here in Leesburg FL, I have 6 varieties of swallowtails, Zebra LW, Gulf Fritillary, Sulphurs, Skippers, Hairstreaks, Azures, Coppers, Monarchs, White Peacock, Metalmarks etc. My list is 32 species and growing; people are amazed by all the butterflies out here ALL the time. It's pretty rural here with a wide natural canal behind the house, woods across from that, an empty lot next door with woods so there are a lot of micro habitats around. Other than host plants, my butterfly garden is pretty much ignored now because of these weeds. They come up EVERYWHERE by the hundreds! I was constantly pulling these out and had no clue where they were coming from. Last summer I had hurt my back and they got away from me: How Fortunate! I was pretty shocked by all the butterflies that came in and stayed around. I had quite a few butterflies before but they were in and out, they never really stuck around very long. These things are always in bloom, even in the winter, and are covered with butterflies and an assortment of bees. Once other nectar plants are gone, the honey bees and bumble bees flock in. The rest of the story is bad: If they came up by the hundreds before, it's by the thousands now! The seeds stick to everything, my poor dogs get all tangled up with them. There really is no controlling them; dead heading would be a full time job, the plants get scraggly and they don't have a scent to enjoy. But, for one so OCD about weeds, these have now found themselves several large devoted areas to grow. I wouldn't be without them now but I just wish they stayed inbounds where they belong!

Positive tabby7 On Oct 28, 2011, tabby7 from Alford, FL wrote:

I agree with the positive comments about the bees and butterflies but the "sticking power" of the seeds outweighs the positive.

These little devils will stick in your hair, clothing, pets fur and anything else that comes close to the (often 8' or more) Mama Shepherd's needle plant.
I still let some continue to grow and reproduce because the bees and butterflies are so happy with them.

The moral of this story is that those who garden have big hearts even for the naughty kids.

Positive Gina_Rose On Sep 16, 2006, Gina_Rose from Hollywood, FL (Zone 10b) wrote:

Although I can't look around w/out seeing these, or step into my backyard without getting it's seeds on some clothing, I would never give up this native for anything. It's easily mowed down, so I keep a section of the yard for these alone, and guess what? When the sun is out, I cannot walk by without seeing at least 2 butterfly species, some small moth-looking things which may also be butterflies, as well as dragonflies and bees! Nothing I have can compare to the appeal that these wildflowers have to insects.
Spanish needles also contain alkaloids which are essential for the sexual maturation of young male butterflies.
Plus, this is like our only real wildflower in SoFla. I've never even come across our state wildflower! :)~

Neutral JaxFlaGardener On Apr 29, 2005, JaxFlaGardener from Jacksonville, FL (Zone 8b) wrote:

This is the most abundant native plant in my yard. I have THOUSANDS of the seedlings in all areas of full sun to deep shade. It seems that every seed that hits the ground is able to grow! I pull up as many as I can, but l leave some to grow along the back of flower beds since their year-round flowering does provide a nectar source for butterflies at times when nothing else is in bloom. The flower is an attractive, miniature "daisy" and would probably have value as an ornamental if the plant were not so prolific in self-seeding. At the back of the flower beds, it grows to about 4 ft high and blends in nicely with other plants.

Positive artcons On Mar 24, 2005, artcons from Fort Lauderdale, FL (Zone 10b) wrote:

As both noted above, it's a weed and it grows very well and almost everywhere there's moisture.
However in it's favor, during the winter months when there are not many nectar flowers for the butterflies that are around, this plant is in full bloom providing the nectar they need.
I purposly leave my yard unmowed December & January so these weeds will grow and bloom. They are a favorite of the many really small butterflies I get in my yard. I also transplanted three of them next to my Monarch area so the little butterflies would have access to them now that I am mowing again.
This plant is a Florida native.

Negative xyris On Mar 11, 2005, xyris from Sebring, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

This is a major weed in central Florida, and many other areas of the tropics and subtropics. It really loves our sandy soils, and seedlings come up thickly as soon as the soil is disturbed. Left alone and with something to support it, it can easily reach 6 to 8 feet tall in a few months, setting thousands more seeds. I pull thousands of these every year to keep it under control.

Neutral Terry On Jan 23, 2003, Terry from Murfreesboro, TN (Zone 7a) wrote:

On one hand, this plant is great for attracting butterflies and puts on a nice show of blooms. On the other hand, it reseeds VIGOROUSLY. If cultivated, be sure to deadhead reigiously or you'll regret it in ensuing years. A tender perennial usually grown as an annual (or a weed, depending on your perspective.)

Like its relatives, this Bidens disperses seed via seeds that cling to anything brushing against the seedheads.


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

Alford, Florida
Boca Raton, Florida
Brooksville, Florida
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Hollywood, Florida (2 reports)
Jacksonville, Florida
Lady Lake, Florida
Lakeland, Florida
Lecanto, Florida
Leesburg, Florida
Lutz, Florida
Miami, Florida
Sarasota, Florida
Sebring, Florida
Tampa, Florida
Zephyrhills, Florida
Barbourville, Kentucky
Southold, New York
Prosperity, South Carolina
Austin, Texas

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