Weed of the Month: Common Cocklebur

Common name: Common cocklebur
Scientific name: Xanthium strumarium L.

Life Cycle: Warm season annual
Origin: United States
Poisonous: Yes

Pasture weed Cockelbur

Common Cocklebur

Common cocklebur is distributed widely across the United States and occurs in pastures and cultivated crops. Infestations in pastures are usually more of a problem during periods of drought or due to overgrazing and most frequently occur in field margins. Cocklebur is named for the burs that contain the seeds of this plant. Mature burs are egg-shaped, hard, woody, and covered with hooked prickles. This allows the burs to become attached and transported via animals. Leaves alternate with long petioles (leafstalks) and the leaf surface is rough.

Common cocklebur control is relatively easy when herbicides are applied to plants less than 12 inches tall that have not been mowed. Recommended treatment time is normally between May and July. Mowing is an effective treatment method when the cocklebur plants are about 12 inches tall, but the ideal mowing height is 4 inches or less. Consult your local Cooperative Extension Service personnel for herbicidal control in your area.

William W. Witt, PhD, a researcher in Plant and Soil Sciences, provided this information.


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