Spanish needles (Bidens biternata)

Spanish needles (Bidens biternata) belongs to the family Asteraceae and is an annual erect herb up to 1 m tall. The common name of this plant is Spanish needle, blackjack, or beggar ticks. This species is closely related to Bidens pilosa but the only difference is in the leaf arrangement. The flowers are yellow, including the ray florets.  Flowering mainly between September to November. This plant is generally categorized under weed and is distributed mainly in cultivated areas.

The is known for its medicinal value and is mainly used as a traditional medicine to treat eye and ear affections (1). Spanish needles are been used in traditional medicinal systems for all kinds of infections like upper respiratory tract infections, colds, flu, and UTIs (Urinary tract infections) (2).


Spanish needles can thrive in a wide variety of habitats ranging from moist fertile soil to vice versa that is dry infertile soil. These plants need good sunlight and can thus grow in grasslands, pastures, wetlands, and even on the roadside. Due to its resilient character and the ability to grow anywhere with the minimum requirement can be categorized under weed plants.

Botanical description


The flowers are yellow composed of small disk flowers towards the center and larger ray flowers along the edge. the flowering heads are often surrounded by green bracts.


Are dissected with 2 to 3 rows of lateral leaflets that are ovate or lanceolate in shape. The leaves have short hairs along the edges and veins that are pressed closely to the leaves (3).


The seeds are approximately 8-18 mm long with a linear outline and brown. Each achene has 3-4 spines at the apex which gradually become pointed downwards.

Growing habits

Spanish needles are annual or perennial herbs that attain a maximum height of 36 inches. These plants are easy to grow and can be quickly colonized via seed germination (4).

Benefits of Spanish needles (Bidens biternata) plant

Antibacterial action

Antibacterial activity against a wide range of bacteria like Klebsiella pneumonia, Bacillus, Neisseria gonorrhea, Pseudomonas, Staphylococcus, and Salmonella. The extract of the leaf also has been documented to have antimycobacterial activity towards mycobacterium tuberculosis and M. smegmatis (2).

Anti-yeast activity

Water extract of the leaf shows significant anti-yeast activity towards Candida albicans.

Anti-microbial activity

Due to the presence of compound polyacetylene which includes a chemical called phenylheptatriyne. This chemical shows strong activity against numberous human and animal viruses, bacteria, fungi, and molds in experiments(2).

May be used as anti-inflammatory

B. biternata is extensively used in traditional medicine against inflammation, infections, diabetes, malaria, leprosy, ulcers diarrhea, and digestive disorders (4).

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