Cobblers peg (Bidens pilosa)

Latin Name: Bidens pilosa

Family: Asteraceae or Compositae











An annual plant. The stems are bristly and sticky. They are square in cross section. It trails over other plants. It climbs by hooked bristles. The leaves are bristly and sprout from the stems in clusters of 6-8. The leaves do not have stalks. The flowers are small and white. The seed pods are bristly and have 2 round segments about 3 mm wide.
A small annual upright herb with small black seeds in heads. It is an erect branched herb 0.2 to 1.5 m tall. The branches or stems have parallel lines or ridges. The stems are four angled. The leaves are up to 15 cm long with the upper ones much smaller. The leaves are divided into 3-5 leaflets. The end leaflet is usually larger (3 cm x 9 cm). The edges of the leaves are toothed. The flowers occur at the end of branches. They are on long stalks. The flowers are brown or yellow. The seeds are black with 2-4 projections at the top. (The seeds often stick to clothes.)

Notes: It is a commercially cultivated vegetable. This plant is a troublesome weed in many places. It is only a very minor food in Papua New Guinea. It is both grown and eaten in Africa. It is widely used throughout Malawi and Zimbabwe. This plant has been used in medicine and recent studies have shown these treatments are due to chemicals effective in controlling bacteria (gram positive types) and assisting liver function. Leaves are a good source of iodine. There are about 200 Bidens species. Most are in North America.

Edible Uses: The seeds are used in making an Igorot rice wine called “sinitsit” in the Philippines.
The seeds are eaten, particularly by children (e.g. in Enga) in Papua New Guinea.
The young leaves are edible cooked. They should be cooked due to saponins.
The leaves are cooked in soups and stews. The young leaves can be dried for later use. Fresh they can only be stored for 3-4 days.
They are also used as a substitute for tea. A good source of iodine.

Warnings: The roots, leaves and flowers are strongly phototoxic. Substances isolated from the leaves can kill human skin in the presence of sunlight

Bidens pilosa











Medicinal Uses: Alterative; Antifungal; Antiinflammatory; Antirheumatic; Styptic.

Medicinal Information: A juice made from the leaves is used to dress wounds and ulcers. A decoction of the leaves is anti-inflammatory, styptic and alterative. The whole plant is antirheumatic, it is also used in enemas to treat intestinal ailments. Substances isolated from the leaves are bactericidal and fungicidal, they are used in the treatment of thrush and candida. In traditional Chinese medicine, this plant is considered a medicinal herb, called xian feng cao.



4 thoughts on “Cobblers peg (Bidens pilosa)

  1. Ruth

    I just came across this on this website saying that yhe leaves are ok to eat raw….. i found it when i was looking into what saponins were because i like to look for greens that are edible raw. Has anyone eaten the leaves raw and what are your thoughts on thiss?

    P’s. I love how you have included the Chinese name of the plant 🙂 very helpful in cross referencing.

    Leaves are eaten raw, added to cooked dishes, made as a tea, and dried and stored for future use as a survival food. Leaves are a very good source of chlorophyll, vitamin C, calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium. Tannin, in the plant, has made it a treatment for diarrhoea and dysentery, and for respiratory congestion.

    1. admin Post author

      Hi Ruth,
      I regularly eat young shoots of Bidens pilosa and fin d it quite satisfying and flavoursome.
      I also cultivate a bush of it in my garden and regularly harvest young shoots for sups, sauces, casseroles and others dishes.


  2. Steven

    I too like to nibble on the young leaves of Bidens pilosa. The best tasting plants grow in part shade and have plenty of water. Another thing I like to do is sprout the seeds. Its easy to do, you just need to make sure the seeds don’t clump up because of the little hooks on the ends. They only take a few days to be ready for eating. The sprouts taste like the leaves and are nice on fresh bread. The seed casing is inedible though, so will need to be pulled off.


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