Habit of cobbler's pegs


Leaf of Cobbler's pegs

3 leaflets form a leaf

Flowerhead without surrounding petals (ray florets)

A flowerhead with fruit forming

Immature green fruit

Seed maturing, barbed awns visible

Mature seed head with barbed awns

Seedling of cobbler's pegs

Scientific Name

Bidens pilosa L.



Common Names

cobbler's pegs, farmer's friend, stick-tights, pitch-forks, burr marigold




Temperate and tropical America



Erect almost glabrous to densely hairy woody herb that grows to 1m or more high, with angular branches.


Any disturbed or waste ground, roadsides and areas that are dry and infertile.

General Description

Stems and Leaves:

The leaves are opposite and are divided pinnately into 3-5 leaflets with toothed margins (edge). The terminal and lateral leaflets are ovate to lanceolate shaped. The petiole (the stalk of a leaf) is very slightly winged.

Flowers and Fruit:

The flowerheads (capitula) are white and yellow and 5-15mm in diameter. They are borne on long slender peduncles (stalks) at the end of the stems. Each flower head has 4 or 5 short, broad, white petals (ray florets) with numerous, yellow disc florets (tubular florets in centre of flowerhead). The outer involucral bracts (a whorl or several whorls of a more or less modified leaves surrounding a flower or an infloresence) have finely hairy margins (edges) and are shorter than the inner bracts. The seeds are slender, linear, curved, black and rigid, they are 4 angled 6-12mm long with 2 or 3 barbed awns (stiff bristle). Flowering occurs throughout the year but primarily summer-autumn.



Distinguishing characteristics

The plants are a characteristic dark green colour and often do not develop flowerheads until at least one metre tall. The black seeds with awns (bristle-like appendages) are very distinctive. Bidens pilosa  has outer involucral bracts  (a whorl or several whorls of modified leaves surrounding a flower or an infloresence) that are linear or lanceolate and are finely hairy on the margins (edges). The outer involucral bracts are shorter than the inner involucral bracts.  Bidens tripartita on the other hand has outer involucral bracts that are spathulate and leaf-like often extending beyond the involucre. Bidens pilosa can be distinguished from Bidens subalternans in that Bidens pilosa has leaflets that are unlobed (rarely partially lobed) and have toothed margins. Bidens subalternans on the other hand has leaflets that are pinnatifid (the leaflets, cut into lobes on both sides of the midrib).



Sources & References

Cunningham GM, Mulham PL, Leigh JH (1981) 'Plants of Western New South Wales.' (NSW Government Printing Office: Australia)

Harden GJ (Ed) (2002) 'Flora of New South Wales.' (University of New South Wales Press Ltd: Sydney, Australia)

Kleinschmidt HE, Johnson RW (1987) 'Weeds of Queensland.' (QLD Department of Primary Industries: Brisbane, Australia)

Pacific island ecosystems at risk (2004)  www.hear.org


Prepared by Kylie Pethybridge, 2005

Checked by Carole Campbell, 2005

Updated by Justin KY Chu, July 2005

Checked by Dr Peter Michael, July 2005