Noogoora Burr

Latin Name: Xanthium occidentale

Young plant, Bundanon, NSW Origin: Native of America.

Alternative Name(s): Xanthium pungens, part of Xanthium strumarium.

Family: Asteraceae.

Known Hazards: Poisonous. Most members of this genus are toxic to grazing animals and are usually avoided by them. The seed also contains toxins.

Habitat: River banks, lake shores, cultivated ground and pastures.

Edibility Rating: 1 (1-5)

Medicinal Rating: 3 (1-5)

Physical Characteristics: Annual herb to 2.5 (rarely to 4) m high. Stems rough to touch with short stout upward directed hairs, green and usually blotched or streaked purple. Leaves dark green above, paler below, covered with small bristles and glandular hairs, margins coarsely toothed, with 3 prominent veins, and with veins and leaf stalks often reddish. Brown burrs each contain two brown, grey or black seeds.
Flowers: Unisexual, male and female flowers in separate clusters in upper leaf axils and at ends of branches. Flowers mostly summer and autumn.


Distinguishing features: Distinguished by spineless stems; ovate or triangular leaves 5–15 cm long with 3 or 5 lobes, rough to touch; burrs 7–25 mm long, covered with hooked spines and ending in 2 diverging stout straight spines.

Dispersal: Spread by seed in burrs. Burrs are spread attached to animals, clothing and bags. Burrs float and are moved by water.

Edible Uses

Maturing seed pods. Image by dinesh valke

Maturing seed pods. Image by dinesh valke

Leaves; Seed. Leaves and young plants – cooked. They must be thoroughly boiled and then washed. Caution is advised, the plant is probably poisonous. Seed – raw or cooked. It can be used as a piñole. The seed can be ground into a powder and mixed with flour for making bread, cakes etc. The seed contains about 36.7% protein, 38.6% fat, 5.2% ash. It also contains a glycoside and is probably poisonous.


Medicinal Uses

Anodyne; Antibacterial; Antifungal; Antiperiodic; Antirheumatic; Antispasmodic; Antitussive; Appetizer; Cytotoxic; Diaphoretic; Diuretic; Emollient; Febrifuge; Hypoglycaemic; Laxative; Sedative; Stomachic. The leaves and root are anodyne, antirheumatic, appetizer, diaphoretic, diuretic, emollient, laxative and sedative. The plant is considered to be useful in treating long-standing cases of malaria and is used as an adulterant for Datura stramonium. An infusion of the plant has been used in the treatment of rheumatism, diseased kidneys and tuberculosis. It has also been used as a liniment on the armpits to reduce perspiration. The fruits contain a number of medically active compounds including glycosides and phytosterols. They are anodyne, antibacterial, antifungal, antimalarial, antirheumatic, antispasmodic, antitussive, cytotxic, hypoglycaemic and stomachic. They are used internally in the treatment of allergic rhinitis, sinusitis, catarrh, rheumatism, rheumatoid arthritis, constipation, diarrhoea, lumbago, leprosy and pruritis. They are also used externally to treat pruritis. The fruits are harvested when ripe and dried for later use. The root is a bitter tonic and febrifuge. It has historically been used in the treatment of scrofulous tumours. A decoction of the root has been used in the treatment of high fevers and to help a woman expel the afterbirth. A decoction of the seeds has been used in the treatment of bladder complaints. A poultice of the powdered seed has been applied as a salve on open sores.

Other Uses

Dye; Essential; Repellent; Tannin. The dried leaves are a source of tannin. A yellow dye is obtained from the leaves. The seed powder has been used as a blue body paint. The dried plant repels weevils from stored wheat grain. The seed contains an essential oil.

Notes: Noogoora Burr is often abundant after spring or summer floods. Impedes shearing and is a major cause of vegetable fault in wool. Young plants are more toxic than mature plants; sheep, cattle and pigs are affected; poisoning seldom occurs unless stock are starving. Can cause contact dermatitis in humans and animals. Insects and pathogens, some deliberately introduced, damage Noogoora Burr in Australia.

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