Bidens pilosa is an annual species of herbaceous flowering plant in the daisy family Asteraceae. Its many common names include black-jack, beggarticks, cobbler's pegs and Spanish needle. It is native to the Americas but is widely distributed as an introduced species in other regions worldwide including Eurasia, Africa, Australia, South America and the Pacific Islands.
Bidens pilosa is a branched annual forb of gracile habit, growing up to 1.8 meters tall. It grows aggressively on disturbed land and often becomes weedy. The leaves are all oppositely arranged and range from simple to pinnate in form, the upper leaves with three to five dentate, ovate-to-lanceolate leaflets. The petioles are slightly winged.
The plant may flower at any time of the year, but mainly in summer and autumn in temperate regions. The flowers are small heads borne on relatively long peduncles. The heads consist of about four or five broad white ray florets (ligules), surrounding many tubular yellow disc florets without ligules that develop into barbed fruits.
The fruits are slightly curved, stiff, rough black rods, tetragonal in cross section, about 1 cm long, typically with two to three stiff, heavily barbed awns at their distal ends. The infructescences form stellate spherical burrs about one to two centimeters in diameter. The barbed spines of the achenes get stuck in the feathers, fur, fleeces, clothing, etc. of people or animals that brush against the plant. It is an effective means of seed dispersal by zoochory, as the fruits are transported by animals. This mechanism has helped the plant become a noxious weed in temperate and tropical regions. The barbed awns can injure flesh.
Its many English common names include black-jack,:819 beggarticks, hairy beggarticks, cobbler's pegs, devil's needles, hairy bidens, Spanish needle, farmers friend, Devils Pitchfork, and sticky beaks.
Although Bidens pilosa is primarily considered a weed, in many parts of the world it is also a source of food and medicine. The leafs have a resinous flavor, and are eaten raw, in stews, or dried for storage. It is especially important in eastern Africa, where it is known as michicha.
In Vietnam, during the Vietnam War, soldiers adopted the herb as a vegetable, which led to it being known as the "soldier vegetable". It is susceptible to hand weeding if small enough, even then must be bagged, and thick mulches may prevent it from growing.
In traditional Chinese medicine, this plant is considered a medicinal herb, called xian feng cao (Chinese: 咸豐草).. In traditional Bafumbira medicine, this plant is applied on a fresh wound and is known to be a medicinal herb, called inyabalasanya.Extracts from Bidens Pilosa is used in Southern Africa to cure malaria.
Almost two hundred compounds have been isolated from B. pilosa, especially polyacetylenes and flavonoids. The plant contains the chalcone okanin and ethyl caffeate, a hydroxycinnamic acid.
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