Xanthium strumarium L. var. canadense (Mill.) Torr. & A. Gray

Remark The words or terms in red (actually dark orange) in the text are defined in a glossary.

aug_05_02n.gthmb can't be loaded. Xanthium strumarium is a native or adventive plant; it is native to both Eurasia and North America; it is hard to distinguish between native and adventive races of this plant. It is a common summer annual, about 2 to 4 feet tall. It is a monoecious plant. Xanthium strumarium belongs to the Asteraceae family.


In Greek, ξανθοσ (xanthos) means yellow, yellowish, greenish, and some say the name Xanthium was given from the ancient name of some plant, the fruit of which was used to dye the hair yellow, i.e. blond.

In Latin, struma means scrofula so that strumarium would mean of or pertaining to the scrofula, that leaves retractile and unsightly scars, and the epithet might then refer to the shape of the fruits. As for the canadense it is for the variety quite common in Canada.

Common names

Some of the vernacular names of Xanthium strumarium var. canadense (and of many other different species or varieties!) are : Canada Cocklebur, Canada Cockleburr, Cocklebur, Common Cocklebur, Common Clotbur, Heartleaf Cocklebur, Ogimauwushk, Sea-burdock, Beach Clotbur, Tumor Cocklebur, Tumor-curing Cocklebur, Rough Cocklebur and Rough Cockleburr. Some of the French vernacular names are: Lampourde, Lampourde de Chine, Glouteron, Lampourde glouteron and Gratia.


Xanthium strumarium var. canadense has also been known as:


Xanthium strumarium is quite easy to identify by its female flowers and its fruits that cannot be confused with those of any other plant.

Xanthium strumarium resembles somewhat Arctium minus, but it has separate male and female flowers that are brownish white and green, respectively, while the latter species has perfect flowers with bright pink corollas.

The other variety of Xanthium strumarium, the variety glabratum, has bur-like bracts that are nearly glabrous and they tend to be more oval-shaped and less broad than the bracts of var. canadense. Otherwise, they are very similar to each other.

The species Xanthium spinosum (Spiny Cocklebur) has more narrow lanceolate leaves, and there is a tripartite spine at the base of each leaf (hence the epithet). Furthermore, up to now, this species has not been found in Québec. It is native from South America, but is an adventive in the US, in New-Brunswick, Ontario and British Columbia.



The root system consists of a taproot that is stout and rather woody.



Flower heads

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Cropland (especially corn fields), fallow fields, the floodplain zone of rivers and ponds, degraded meadows that are poorly drained, dried-up mudholes, stabilized areas of beaches and sand dunes, vacant lots, and waste areas. Disturbed, poorly drained areas are preferred.


Xanthium strumarium can be found throughout the United States, and other temperate areas of the world, from 53 degrees north to 33 degrees south in latitude. The canadense variety can be found throughout all the provinces of Canada. map_us.jpg can't be loaded. The map shows the US States where Xanthium strumarium can be found; that is all the USA but for Alaska and Porto Rico.


Xanthium strumarium has become a noxious weed worldwide. It invades agricultural lands and can be poisonous to livestock. Some domestic animals will avoid consuming the plant if other forage is present, but less discriminating animals, such as pigs, will consume the plants and then sicken and die. Seedlings and seeds are the most toxic parts of the plants.

The plant also has been used for medicinal properties and for making yellow dye.

Because they readily attach to cloth material, they can be used as darts in a Xanthium dart game. Also, sixteen of the spiny burs can be glued together to form a perfect little poodle dog.


The photos of the gallery were taken either with one of the following: The title in the window shows the date when the picture was taken, i.e. jan_30_06... would mean that the photo was taken on the 30th of January, the 06 is for the 6th picture taken that day.

The month, day and picture number might be followed by a letter:

and if there is no letter it's obviously the Minolta.

Click on the thumbnails to get larger view. The original photos are usually in TIFF format, the photos shown are generally in JPEG format, usually of dimension one half (surface one quarter) for loading time reduction.

Plants, stems

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aug_03_01s.mthmb cannot be loaded. The leaves were scanned at 300 dpi, and the dimensions of the resulting picture divided by 2 (area divided by 4); this allows to measure the dimensions of the leaves.


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sep_18_05c.mthmb cannot be loaded. sep_18_06c.mthmb cannot be loaded. sep_18_07c.mthmb cannot be loaded. The picture on the left illustrates and open fruit and its two seeds.