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Xanthium strumarium (Rough cocklebur)
Flaigg, Norman G.

Xanthium strumarium

Xanthium strumarium L.

Rough Cocklebur

Asteraceae (Aster Family)



USDA Native Status: L48 (N), HI (I), PR (N), VI (N), CAN (N)

Rough-stemmed plant with separate greenish male and female flower heads.

The only other species of this genus occurring in North America is Spiny Clotbur (X. spinosum), which has tapering, shiny, veined leaves and distinctive 3-branched orangish spines at the point of each leaf attachment. A cocklebur was the inspiration for a Swiss engineer, George deMastral, in 1948, for the invention of Velcro. He examined the burs that stuck to his socks and discovered that they consisted of hundreds of tiny hooks, which attached themselves to anything loopy.


From the Image Gallery

16 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Annual
Habit: Herb
Size Notes: Up to about 6 feet tall.
Fruit: Fruit is a cypsela (pl. cypselae). Though technically incorrect, the fruit is often referred to as an achene.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Green , Brown
Bloom Time: Jul , Aug , Sep , Oct


USA: AL , AR , AZ , CA , CO , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , HI , IA , ID , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , MT , NC , ND , NE , NH , NJ , NM , NV , NY , OH , OK , OR , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , TX , UT , VA , VT , WA , WI , WV , WY
Canada: NB , NS , PE
Native Distribution: Throughout much of temperate North America.
Native Habitat: Waste places, roadsides, and low ground.


Use Wildlife: Cocklebur seeds were the most commonly recorded food of the extinct Carolina Parakeet, the only parrot native to eastern North America.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Fredericksburg Nature Center - Fredericksburg, TX
Sibley Nature Center - Midland, TX
Nueces River Authority - Uvalde, TX

Herbarium Specimen(s)

NPSOT 0178 Collected Sept. 3, 1987 in Bexar County by Harry Cliffe

1 specimen(s) available in the Digital Herbarium

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Xanthium strumarium in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Xanthium strumarium in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Xanthium strumarium


Record Modified: 2023-01-30
Research By: TWC Staff

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