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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    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Xanthium strumarium Cocklebur, Rough cocklebur, Canada cocklebur

Xanthium strumarium Cocklebur, Rough cocklebur, Canada cocklebur


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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).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 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: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.


X. canadense. Mill.


 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.

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;  
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].

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].

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].


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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

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

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 :

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