We have recently published ‘Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions’: i.e. tropical and sub-tropical regions. We rely on regular donations to keep our free database going and help fund development of this and another book we are planning on food forest plants for Mediterranean climates. Please give what you can to keep PFAF properly funded. More >>>

Follow Us:


Xanthium strumarium - L.

Common Name Cocklebur, Rough cocklebur, Canada cocklebur
Family Asteraceae or Compositae
USDA hardiness 6-9
Known Hazards Poisonous[65, 76]. Most members of this genus are toxic to grazing animals and are usually avoided by them[222]. The seed also contains toxins[222].
Habitats River banks, lake shores, cultivated ground and pastures[50].
Range A cosmopolitan plant, a locally established casual in Britain[17].
Edibility Rating    (1 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Xanthium strumarium Cocklebur, Rough cocklebur, Canada cocklebur

Xanthium strumarium Cocklebur, Rough cocklebur, Canada cocklebur


Translate this page:


Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Xanthium strumarium is a ANNUAL growing to 0.8 m (2ft 7in) by 0.4 m (1ft 4in).
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 7. It is in flower from July to October, and the seeds ripen from August to October. The species is monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and is pollinated by Insects. The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


X. canadense. Mill.

Plant Habitats

 Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves  Seed
Edible Uses:

Leaves and young plants - cooked[2, 105, 177]. They must be thoroughly boiled and then washed[179]. Caution is advised, the plant is probably poisonous[218]. Seed - raw or cooked[212]. It can be used as a piñole[257]. The seed can be ground into a powder and mixed with flour for making bread, cakes etc[105, 257]. The seed contains about 36.7% protein, 38.6% fat, 5.2% ash[179]. It also contains a glycoside[179] and is probably poisonous.

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Anodyne  Antibacterial  Antifungal  Antiperiodic  Antirheumatic  Antispasmodic  Antitussive  Appetizer  
Cytotoxic  Diaphoretic  Diuretic  Emollient  Febrifuge  Hypoglycaemic  Laxative  
Leprosy  Malaria  Sedative  Stomachic

The leaves and root are anodyne, antirheumatic, appetizer, diaphoretic, diuretic, emollient, laxative and sedative[61, 147, 178, 222]. The plant is considered to be useful in treating long-standing cases of malaria[240] and is used as an adulterant for Datura stramonium[61]. An infusion of the plant has been used in the treatment of rheumatism, diseased kidneys and tuberculosis[257]. It has also been used as a liniment on the armpits to reduce perspiration[257]. The fruits contain a number of medically active compounds including glycosides and phytosterols[279]. They are anodyne, antibacterial, antifungal, antimalarial, antirheumatic, antispasmodic, antitussive, cytotxic, hypoglycaemic and stomachic[238, 279]. They are used internally in the treatment of allergic rhinitis, sinusitis, catarrh, rheumatism, rheumatoid arthritis, constipation, diarrhoea, lumbago, leprosy and pruritis[238, 257]. They are also used externally to treat pruritis[238]. The fruits are harvested when ripe and dried for later use[238]. The root is a bitter tonic and febrifuge[240]. It has historically been used in the treatment of scrofulous tumours[222]. A decoction of the root has been used in the treatment of high fevers and to help a woman expel the afterbirth[257]. A decoction of the seeds has been used in the treatment of bladder complaints[257]. A poultice of the powdered seed has been applied as a salve on open sores[257].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

The Bookshop: Edible Plant Books

Our Latest books on Perennial Plants For Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens in paperback or digital formats.

Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions: 250+ Plants For Tropical Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.
Edible Tropical Plants

Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions: 250+ Plants For Tropical Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.

Plants for Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.
Edible Temperate Plants

Plants for Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.

PFAF have eight books available in paperback and digital media.
More Books

PFAF have eight books available in paperback and digital formats. Browse the shop for more information.

Shop Now

Other Uses

Dye  Essential  Repellent  Tannin

The dried leaves are a source of tannin[145]. A yellow dye is obtained from the leaves[178]. The seed powder has been used as a blue body paint[257]. The dried plant repels weevils from stored wheat grain[178]. The seed contains an essential oil[272].

Special Uses

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Requires a sunny position, succeeding in most soils. Prefers a poor dry soil[238]. Hardy to about -15°c[238]. Plants often self sow and in some parts of the world have become noxious weeds[238].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

Type a value in the Celsius field to convert the value to Fahrenheit:



The PFAF Bookshop

Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees,Edible Shrubs, Woodland Gardening, and Temperate Food Forest Plants. Our new book is Food Forest Plants For Hotter Conditions (Tropical and Sub-Tropical).

Shop Now

Plant Propagation

Seed - sow spring or autumn in situ[238]. The seed requires plenty of moisture in order to germinate.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Xanthium communeCanada cockleburAnnual1.5 0-0  LMHNM10 
Xanthium spinosumSpiny CockleburAnnual0.5 6-9  LMHNM010

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


Expert comment



Botanical References


Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here

Readers comment

Add a comment

If you have important information about this plant that may help other users please add a comment or link below. Only comments or links that are felt to be directly relevant to a plant will be included. If you think a comment/link or information contained on this page is inaccurate or misleading we would welcome your feedback at [email protected]. If you have questions about a plant please use the Forum on this website as we do not have the resources to answer questions ourselves.

* Please note: the comments by website users are not necessarily those held by PFAF and may give misleading or inaccurate information.

To leave a comment please Register or login here All comments need to be approved so will not appear immediately.

Subject : Xanthium strumarium  
© 2010, Plants For A Future. Plants For A Future is a charitable company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales. Charity No. 1057719, Company No. 3204567.