The purpose of the Florida Native Plant Society (FNPS) is to promote the preservation, conservation, and restoration of the native plants and native plant communities of Florida. This blog presents ideas and information to further the cause of Florida's native plants and ecosystems.
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Wednesday's Wildflower:Spanish Needle
Spanish Needle, Bidens Alba
Submitted by Donna Bollenbach, Suncoast Chapter
Biden's alba, all photos by Donna Bollenbach
Nothing attracts more butterflies and
bees than a simple white flower called Bidens
alba. Also called Romerillo, Beggar’s Tick, Spanish Needle or Monkey’s Lice,
this Florida native wildflower is the
third most reliable source of nectar for pollinators in our state. There would
be many starving bees and butterflies if not for the Bidens family of flowers. More
so, Bidens alba and its sister plant,
Bidens pilosa, are both edible and have
medicinal value. Yet, many gardeners have a love/hate relationship the
plant, and some even consider it a pesky weed. Why?
The word Bidens means two-toothed, which describes the needle-like seeds that flowers in this family produce in enormous amounts. If you walk through a patch of Bidens that have gone to seed you come out looking and feeling that you were attacked by an army of little black needles, and good luck getting them out of your clothes. The “hitchhiker” seeds are easily spread by people, animals, wind and water, so it grows everywhere and anywhere, and once established, it is hard to get rid of.
But, if you love bees and butterflies, you need
to learn to love Bidens Alba. While
not a neat and tidy plant, it is can be very showy at its peak. The pretty
white and yellow daisy-like flowers bloom throughout spring, summer and fall in
Florida. It becomes quite weedy as it
ages, but if allowed to grow in a sunny area along a fence line, or in the back
of your garden and out of the way of any
foot traffic, it will pose less of
a problem for you when it goes to seed. What small discomfort you may feel by
the prickly seeds in your shoes and socks, you will be rewarded tenfold by the
colorful pollinators that you will attract to your yard.
most Florida climates it Bidens alba blooms nearly year round. They like sun, but will tolerate some shade. They are also very drought tolerant. The plants may die after the
first frost, but will come back quickly when the weather turns warm.A single plant can produce 3000-6000 seeds,
so if you don’t want them to spread you need to pull up or mow the plants before they
go to seed, or, you can eat them…The fresh or dried leaves of Bidens alba are edible. Peggy Sias Lantz, author of Florida’s Guide to Edible Wild Plants, recommends that you pick the youngest leaves and sprouts and “cook them in a few changes of water to get rid of the bitterness.” She also writes that if used sparingly, the leaves and flowers can also be tossed into a raw salad.
Bidens alba: Weed or wildflower?
It is all in the eyes of the beholder, and the butterflies.