Monday, December 31, 2012

Spanish needles

Most people with a garden or yard consider Spanish needles (Bidens alba) to be a weedy pest, a tough rooted interloper that pops up in the most inconsiderate places. As for myself, first I appreciated the butterflies that circled the daisy-like blooms. Now I admire the way the flashes of white and brief yellow lighting up the green roadside edges and swales. I enjoy the symmetry of leaves and the square-ish stem.

And its persistence! We could all take lessons from this hardy plant, especially during these last tough years of a faltering economy, when many of us have had to adapt to changing conditions and dig our roots a little deeper, learning to bloom where we find ourselves planted.
I know it by the common name Spanish needles, but it’s also called Shepherds’ needles, beggar tick, and pitchfork weed among others. The common names derive from its two-pronged seeds, which are shaped like small needles. They attach themselves to everything. It’s a great adaptation that ensures that seeds are spread far and wide in search of fertile ground. I can only imagine the miles some seeds have traveled on my socks!
From my pages for The Sketchbook Project.
The young shoots are edible, used like spinach greens. It belongs to the large and diverse composite family, Asteraceae. Often considered a weedy invasive, I was surprised to learn that it’s one of our more important nectar and pollen plants for local bees and butterflies. Spanish needles is also used as a larval food for the Dainty Sulfur butterfly (Nathalis iole). Learning about the positive side this of lowly wildflower/weed, I’m leaving more to grow and nourish the butterflies visiting my yard.

Coloring page:
For a FREE downloadable PDF, please click here, or visit my Coloring Pages tab above. The link includes two pages (each 8.5x11 inches). The first page has a drawing of Spanish needles, the second page has a drawing of three butterflies you can select from to color, cut, and paste onto the first.

For further reading, please visit:
Eat the Weeds

The Sketchbook Project sketchbook,
Pitt Artist pen in black, size XS for the sketch, and S for the text
Kimberly watercolor pencils,
Niji Aquabrush, medium size.


  1. Thank you, Jeanette! As a child I loved nature drawings to color, but there weren't that many available. I hope I'm filling a gap for those kids like me!