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Bidens alba

Pronunciation: By-denz al-buh
Family: Asteraceae/compositae (aster/daisy family)
Common Name: Shepherd's needles, spanish needles, bidens pilosa (syn), butterfly needles, hairy beggarticks, beggarticks
Plant Type:
  • perennial
  • annual
Height to: 1-4'
USDA Hardiness Zones:
  • 10 to 0ºF ZONE 7
  • 20 to 10ºF ZONE 8
  • 30 to 20ºF ZONE 9
  • 40 to 30ºF ZONE 10
Sun Exposure:
  • full sun
Bloom Description: The 1 in (2. 5 cm) flowers, which grow in stalked clusters, look like coarse daisies with five white rays and pale yellow centers. The 0. 25-0. 5 in (0. 6-1. 3 cm) long ribbed seeds resemble flat black needles with 2-6 barbed hooks at each end. They are borne in loose round clusters that look sort of like fireworks exploding. In the tropics, shepherd's needles stays green year round, but grows and flowers most actively when the weather is hot and rainfall is plentiful.
Soil Type: Shepherd's needles does best in rich loose soil with lots of organic mater, but grows well on sand and limerock too.
Plant Perks:
  • Attracts Butterflies
Propagation: Shepherd's needles is a fast spreading weed. A single plant is capable of producing 3,000-6,000 seeds, which maintain viability for at least 3-5 years and germinate readily. They may be spread by wind or water it is seldom necessary to intentionally propagate shepherd's needles. Seedlings are usually abundant wherever plants have grown. Cuttings from mature stems would probably root easily, but why bother? Plants are easy to transplant.
Native to: Shepherd's needles comes from tropical america, but it spread to asia and the pacific many years ago and is now widely naturalized throughout the tropics and subtropics everywhere in the world. Shepherd's needles thrives in gardens, farm fields, and disturbed sites.
Notes for Identification: Shepherd's needles is sometimes planted in butterfly gardens or wildflower meadows, but is usually regarded as a weedshepherd's needles will thrive, flower, and reseed profusely whether you want it to or not -- but nothing attracts more butterflies! The blossoms are a favored nectar source for many species  give shepherd's needles some space off along the far side of the yard where you can see the butterflies without getting the needles in your clothes and you won't have to pull zillions of seedlings out of the vegetable garden. Warningthis is one of the world's worst annual weeds! If you don't want them by the dozens next year, you have to be diligent about pulling the plants up before they go to seed. If you neglect those growing alongside a trail, you will regret it come fall. The aggravating little needles will embed themselves in your clothing by the dozens every time you brush past the stems. Then, six months later, you'll go to wear that laundered sweater and there'll still be a few of the nasty little surprises hiding in the wool.  
Located in: Annual
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