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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Spanish Needle, Bidens Alba
Submitted by Donna Bollenbach, Suncoast Chapter
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I have to laugh because my late husband hated these because of the seeds, and he would go around pulling them up. I would tell him 'but they are for the butterflies'. I pull them up also because they do spread everywhere, and I still have plenty. They will root just by a stem touching the ground also. The other day I walked into a wild area of my yard and said 'oh no' when I headed back out to clear land and saw my pants covered in the dang seeds. 🙂