Spanish Needle Control: Tips On Managing Spanish Needle Weeds
What is Spanish needle? Although Spanish needle plant (Bidens bipinnata) is native to Florida and other tropical climates, it has naturalized and become a major pest across much of the United States. Spanish needle weeds aren’t all bad; the plants display attractive foliage and tiny yellow-centered white flowers that attract honeybees, butterflies and other beneficial insects.
The downside is that the plant is extremely aggressive and produces needle-like seeds that cling to everything they touch, including hair, fabric and fur. When you consider that one plant can produce 1,000 prickly seeds, you can understand why Spanish needle plant isn’t a welcome visitor in most gardens. If this sounds familiar, keep reading to learn about Spanish needle control.
Controlling Spanish Needles
Young Spanish needle weeds aren’t difficult to pull when the ground is moist, and unless you have a huge infestation, hand-pulling is the most effective and safest solution. Work carefully and use a shovel or spade, if necessary, to get the long, tough taproot. The key to success is to pull the weeds before they have a chance to go to seed – either before the plant blooms or shortly after – but always before the blooms wilt.
Don’t expect to eradicate Spanish needle plant at first try. Keep pulling the seedlings when they are young and tender; you’ll eventually gain the upper hand.
If you have a large infestation, mow the plants periodically so they have no opportunity to develop flowers and go to seed. You can also gain Spanish needle control by spraying individual plants with products containing glyphosate.
Alternatively, spray large infestations with a herbicide that kills broad-leaf weeds, such as 2,4-D. Keep in mind that due to high toxicity and dangers to people, animals and the environment, herbicides should always be a last resort.
Note: Chemical control should only be used as a last resort, as organic approaches are more environmentally friendly.
Feng Fu – Spanish Needle 3 – Bidens pilosa
One of our most common weeds, but what a useful plant.
In Colombia it goes by these names; cadillo , masquia, or papunga chipaca.
Young leaves sometimes eaten raw or steamed, but the taste can be a bit strong. In Zimbabwe the leaves are boiled with peanut butter and eaten. Bidens pilosa is eaten in Africa as a vegetable.
Added to salads or steamed and added to soups and stews, they can also be dried for later use. A good source of iodine. Young shoot tips are used to make a tea.
A juice made from the leaves is used to dress wounds and ulcers. A decoction of the leaves is anti-inflammatory, styptic and alterative]. The whole plant is antirheumatic, it is also used in enemas to treat intestinal ailments. Substances isolated from the leaves are bactericidal and fungicidal, they are used in the treatment of thrush and candida.
The roots, leaves and flowers are strongly phototoxic, the achenes weakly so. Substances isolated from the leaves can kill human skin in the presence of sunlight at concentrations as low as 10ppm
Africa – for bleeding, blood clots, burns, cataracts, colitis, conjunctivitis, constipation, diarrhea, earache, eye disorders, food poisoning, hemorrhages, inflammation, malaria, pneumonia, postpartum hemorrhage, respiratory infections, rheumatism, sores, stomach pains, tuberculosis, worms, wounds, yaws, and as an antiseptic
Bahamas – for cancer, fever, heat-rash, itch, intestinal gas, lacerations, skin sores, water retention, wounds
Brazil – for breast engorgement, cough, diabetes, diaper rash, dysentery, fever, fungal infections, gonorrhea, hemorrhoids, hepatitis, inflammation, insect bites, jaundice, lactation aid, liver tonic, liver obstructions, lung disorders, malaria, parasites, pharyngitis, rheumatism, sclerosis (glands), scurvy, sore throat, toothache, tonsillitis, ulcers, urinary infections, urinary insufficiency, vaginal infections, vaginal discharge, wounds, and as an antiseptic, astringent
Dominican Republic – for chest problems, toothaches, and to promote milk production, salivation, urination and menstruation
Ghana -for allergies, bleeding, earaches, eye infections, hives
Haiti for angina, catarrh, diabetes, foot-and-mouth disease, mental disorders, milk production, nervous shock, stomatitis, tonsilitis, vomiting
Mexico for blood clots, chest problems, diabetes, fever, gastroenteritis, hemorrhoids, inflammation, jaundice, kidney, liver disorders, mouth blisters, nervous problems, snakebite, stomach problems, and as a antiseptic and diuretic
Panama – for colds, headache, intestinal disorders, prostate tumors, rheumatism
Peru for abscesses, angina, anuria, baldness, bile stimulation, childbirth, chills, conjunctivitis, cystitis, diabetes, dysentery, edema, foot-and-mouth disease, fever, fungal infections, headache, hemorrhage, hepatitis, inflammation, jaundice, lacerations, laryngitis, liver problems, liver support, mouth sores, menstrual disorders, nephritis, nervous system disorders, pain, obesity, parasites, rheumatism, sores, sore throat, tonsilitis, toothache, urinary infections, urinary insufficiency, venereal diseases, weight loss, worms, wounds
Elsewhere – for abortions, bleeding, blood cleansing, boils, bronchitis, burns, cancer, candida, colds, colic, colitis, conjunctivitis, coughs, cuts, diabetes, diarrhea, dysentery, eye problems, fever, flatulence, flu, food poisoning, gout, hair loss, hepatitis, hyperglycemia, hypertension, inflammation, intestinal infections, liver diseases, menstrual promotion, parasites, respiratory infections, rheumatism, skin problems, snakebite, stomach disorders, styptic, sweat promotion, thrush, toothache, ulcers, ulcerative colitis, urinary infections, urinary problems, worms, wounds, and as an antiseptic, astringent, diuretic
Origin and geographic distribution
Bidens pilosa is a cosmopolitan weed, originating from South America and common in all tropical and subtropical areas of the world. In Africa Bidens pilosa is recorded as a weed in many countries and it is likely to occur in all countries, including the Indian Ocean islands. It is reported as a vegetable or potherb among others in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d’ Ivoire, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, DR Congo, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Bidens pilosa is a weed in both field and plantation crops and is recorded as troublesome in about 30 crops in more than 40 countries, including about 20 African countries. It is considered one of the most noxious annual weeds in East Africa. It often becomes dominant after the eradication of perennial grasses, and displays allelopathic effects on a number of crops.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the fresh or dried tender shoots and young leaves are used as a leaf vegetable especially in times of food scarcity. It is an ingredient of sauces accompanying the staple food. The leaves are, fresh or after parboiling, dried in the sun and stored as powder for the dry season. In Uganda, the leaves are boiled in sour milk. Old leaves are not suitable for consumption because they have a bitter astringent taste.
Bidens pilosa is used as a medicinal plant in many regions of Africa, Asia and tropical America. Roots, leaves and seed have been reported to possess antibacterial, antidysenteric, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antimalarial, diuretic, hepato-protective and hypotensive activities. In Uganda, five different medicinal uses are known: the sap from crushed leaves is used to speed up clotting of blood in fresh wounds; a leaf decoction is used for treating headache; sap from the plant is put in the ear to treat ear infection; a decoction of leaf powder is used to treat kidney problems; and a herbal tea made from the plant decreases flatulence. Extracts of Bidens pilosa are used in southern Africa to cure malaria. The Manyika people in the eastern highlands of Zimbabwe retain the first water used for cooking Bidens pilosa foliage for later use as a medicinal drink to cure stomach and mouth ulcers, diarrhoea, headaches and hangover. The Zulu in South Africa use a suspension of powdered leaves as an enema for abdominal trouble, whereas in Congo a concoction made from the whole plant is taken as a poison antidote, or to ease child delivery and to relieve the pain from hernia. In South Africa, strong decoctions of the leaf taken in large doses have been reported to be helpful in treating arthritis. In Côte d’Ivoire, the plant is used for treating jaundice and dysentery. The plant sap is applied to burns in Tanzania. In Nigeria, the powder or ash from the seed is used as a local anaesthetic and rubbed into cuts. The Giriama tribe from the coastal areas of Kenya use a leaf extract to treat swollen spleens in children. This tribe also uses a mixture of the dried and ground leaves of Bidens pilosa, soap and hot pepper as an insecticide for the control of leaf miners and other insects. The traditional application of Bidens pilosa in local medicine, especially for its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, will remain of importance, the more so as the plants are readily available. The immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory and especially antimalarial properties deserve further attention.
Spanish needles are been used in traditional medicine systems for infections of all kinds: from such upper respiratory tract infections as colds and flu to urinary tract infections and venereal diseases-and even infected wounds on the skin. Research has begun to confirm these uses in several in vitro microbial studies. In 1991, scientists in Egypt first documented Bidens pilosa antimicrobial activity against various pathogens. Other in vitro studies have demonstrated its antibacterial activity against a wide range of bacteria including Klebsiella pneumonia, Bacillus, Neisseria gonorrhea, Pseudomonas, Staphylococcus, and Salmonella. Extracts of the leaf also have been documented to have antimycobacterial activity towards Mycobacterium tuberculosis and M. smegmatis. A water extract of the leaf has shown significant anti-yeast activity towards Candida albicans. Much of Spanish needles antimicrobial actions have been attributed to a group of chemicals called polyacetylenes, which includes a chemical called phenylheptatriyne. Phenylheptatriyne has shown strong in vitro activity against numerous human and animal viruses, bacteria, fungi, and molds in very small amounts.
In the tropics, Bidens pilosa is also used for snakebite and malaria; research has confirmed these uses as well. Several studies have confirmed the plant’s antimalarial activity; it reduced malaria in animals by 43-66 percent, and in vitro by 90%. With regard to its status as a traditional snakebite remedy, one research group confirmed that a Spanish needles extract could protect mice from lethal injections of neurotoxic snake venom.
Other research has focused on Bidens pilosa’s anticancerous characteristics. Early research, in various in vitro assay systems designed to predict antitumor activity, indicated positive results in the early 1990s. Spanish needles first was reported to have antileukemic actions in 1995. Then researchers from Taiwan reported (in 2001) that a simple hot-water extract of Spanish needles could inhibit the growth of five strains of human and mouse leukemia at less than 200 mcg per ml in vitro.
In Nanyuki, Kenya, Bidens pilosa is collected for the extraction of natural dyes. Among the Efe of the DR Congo the root is washed and dried, then used as a painting brush. Livestock browses on the plants and in South Africa Bidens pilosa has been used as a fodder for pigs. However, dairy cattle are discouraged from browsing on it because the aromatic oil present in the plant has an objectionable smell that can taint milk. Chicken feed on the seed. In Uganda and in Mexico, the leaves are used as an invigorating or stimulant substitute for tea; while in the Philippines the flowers are used in the preparation of a kind of wine. The flowers are a good source of nectar for honeybees.
Extracts of Bidens pilosa show antimalarial activity both in vitro and in vivo. The crude ethanol extract (50 μg/ml) causes up to 90% inhibition of Plasmodium falciparum growth in vitro, compared with 86–94% inhibition for the chloroform fraction and 68–79% for the butanol fraction (both at 50 μg/ml). In vivo the crude ethanol extract and the chloroform fraction cause about 40% reduction of Plasmodium berghei parasitaemia in mice. Phenylacetylenes and flavonoids have been found in the ethanol extract from the leaves and the roots. The results indicate that the antimalarial activity of Bidens pilosa may be attributed to the presence of acetylene compounds. The direct therapeutic usefulness of these compounds seems limited, since they are easily oxidized by air and light.
Polyacetylenes also have antimicrobial activity. A number of polyacetylenes extracts of Bidens pilosa are toxic to yeasts and some bacteria. This compound is an active anti-parasitic. Consumption of the leaves, as in South Africa, has been found to promote the development of oesophageal cancer, and dried leaves of Bidens pilosa have a co-carcinogenic action for oesophageal tumours induced in rats. In addition to the acetylenes, other compounds such as phytosterols (β-sitosterol), triterpenes and caffeic acid(s) are also reported from Bidens pilosa. The main flavonoids from leaf extracts are aurones and chalcones. Several flavonoids have anti-inflammatory properties, their detection in extracts from Bidens pilosa, together with the presence of the described acetylenes, may explain the use of Bidens pilosa in traditional medicine, especially for treating wounds, against inflammations and against bacterial infections of the gastrointestinal tract.
The ethanolic extract of Bidens pilosa showed a high inhibition of prostaglandin synthesis in an in vitro assay for cyclo-oxygenase inhibitors. The methanol extract showed radiation-protection activity for bone marrow. In addition, other pharmacological activity such as, antihyperglycaemic, immunomodulator, anti-ulcer and hypotensive activity were reported.
- For the garden at Redhall is run along organic lines, with an emphasis on achieving good plant health without fighting problems with pesticides, weedkillers or fertilisers.
- Crops are produced without artificial pesticides or weedkillers and animals are kept free-range without the routine use of antibiotics and vaccines.
- Farm pesticides and weedkillers have had a devastating effect on Europe’s bird populations, according to a study released today.
- Pesticides, weedkillers, fire extinguishers and food additives, also undergo thorough testing.
- At Yalding they use a flame gun or hoe to control weeds, not chemical weedkillers; ground covering plants also keep down weeds.
- GM crops allow the use of much more poisonous weedkillers, which pose serious health risks to people.
- However the latest one includes 80 gardening products, mainly selective weedkillers for lawns.
- More than 200 weedkillers, mainly lawn treatments, are being withdrawn from the market after manufacturers chose not to submit them for EU safety tests.
- But don’t be overzealous – it is too early for effective use of lawn weedkillers unless there is a good warm spell.
- Weeds can be dealt with by a number of selected weedkillers that, if used correctly, are extremely effective.
- The trials compared the effects on the environment of weedkillers used in GM farming with those of herbicides used to spray the conventional versions of the same crops.
- Kerosene is also used as a fuel for tractors and power generators and as a solvent for garden chemicals such as weedkillers and insecticides.
- Ordinary life is, however, full of dangerous articles – kitchen knives and garden weedkillers, to mention but two.
- Always keep pets and children off lawns that have been sprayed with weedkillers until the spray has dried and preferably for twenty-four hours afterwards.
- How can I deal with speedwell in my lawn, preferably without using weedkillers?
- So throw out the weedkiller and invite some indigenous plants into your garden plot.
- If people could also clear the gutters outside their homes and premises of debris and weeds there would be less need for the use of strong weedkillers.
- Farmers would then have to use more and more damaging weedkillers to get rid of them, with knock-on impacts on the environment.
- The council will use an organic weedkiller to get rid of the ragwort, which won’t harm other wildlife.
- They are now becoming established in our lawn and I am tempted to cover the whole of my garden with weedkiller, but perhaps that’s a little extreme.
- But his green-fingered attempts to brighten up the area have been wrecked by council workers who sprayed them with weedkiller.