Uses : Wildlife, Forage, Xeriscaping, Edible, Medicinal. Native to : Unknown, found throughout the tropics and subtropics.
It wasn't very long ago that I used to detest this very prolific weed. It is a plant sexaholic, constantly spreading its genetic information all over my grass. I'm not a huge fan of grass, but I'm also not a fan of the place looking untidy, which is what Beggarticks does for you. It's a perennial that freezes to the ground every year and will spring up from its roots to shower your lawn, your neighbor's lawn, and the family down the street's lawn with seeds.
In the past I removed this plant with impunity. It has a tiny shallow root system which makes it easy to pull out. Once removed, I hoped that a more beautiful or useful plant would find its way into that empty space, and within two seasons was somewhat successful. Four O' Clocks found their way into the entire front yard, covering the place with pink fragrance. But how I wish I had known that Spanish Needle would have been better to leave in place...
Why the change of mind, you ask? This weedy herb is a favorite of butterflies and bees, but more importantly, rabbits love it. They eat Beggarticks before they eat the grass mixture, long before they go for the boring pellets. And if a plant is useful and invasive, please invade!
It's edible by humans, too. Eat the leaves raw or cook away, and you'll have a nice green for the dinner table. Or add to smoothies, as I do.
Medicinally it, and its cousin Bidens pilosa, are used in Peru to reduce inflammation and protect the liver. A study done in 2011 confirmed the hepatoprotective effects of Bidens pilosa in mice.
A study done in 2011 in South Africa states that the crude protein content for Bidens pilosa is 19%, making it an excellent herb for growing rabbits to nosh on. It is also high in vitamins and antioxidants. They recommend it be eaten more and used more medicinally by humans.
These plants were sustainably harvested early in the morning from above a storm water drain down the street. A lot of organic matter catches near the drains, and people tend not to try to hard to mow down into the mouth of the drain. Sustainable harvest implies that most of the plants were left to reproduce, and only a small fraction were taken. The whole time I was convinced someone was going to yell at me or at least question why I was carrying around weeds, but thankfully, I escaped un-reprimanded.