Bidens alba

Shepherd’s Needles, romerillo, common beggarticks, Spanish-needle, butterfly needles

Description: annual or perennial 

Place of origin: parts of south-central and southeastern US, Mexico, and Central and South America  

Urban habitat: commonly found along roadsides, disturbed sites; thrives in full sun. 

Ecological function: disturbance-adapted colonizer; food for wildlife.

History: The common names for Bidens alba refer to the propensity of its seeds to stick to clothing or fur, as a means to spread its range. The dried leaves of various species of Bidens have been used as a tobacco substitute, as well as for medicinal purposes to treat colds, flu, hepatitis, bacterial infections, inflammation and urinary tract infections. Many Native American tribes used species of this plant medicinally. Due to the biological activity of chemicals found in the Bidens species, it continues to be studied for medicinal purposes including use as an anti-malarial drug. The flower and leaves are edible and have been consumed raw, cooked and made into tea or wine.