Skeleton Weed

Latin Name: Chondrilla juncea

Image by TonyOrigin: Native of Europe, Asia, north-western Africa.

Family: Asteraceae.

Known Hazards: The seeds are said to be poisonous.

Habitat: Dry open habitats

Edibility Rating: 3 (1-5)

Medicinal Rating: 1 (1-5)

Physical Characteristics: Perennial herb to 1.2 m high. Plants with deep taproot and creeping roots that may form new plants. Leaves in rosette lobed, usually hairless, 4–20 cm long, 1.5–5 cm wide; narrow-leaf, broadleaf and intermediate-leaf forms are recognised in Australia, primarily based on shape of basal leaves, leaves die early in the flowering period and plants are then virtually leafless over summer.
Flowers: Flowerheads solitary or 2 or 3 together, 1–2 cm wide, shortly stalked or without a stalk (sessile); consisting of 9–12 small flowers (florets) per head. Flowers summer and autumn. The flowers are hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.

Image by Tony

Image by Tony

Distinguishing features: Distinguished by skeletal appearance; milky latex from all parts; leaves mainly in basal rosette with fewer no reduced leaves on flowering stems; all florets yellow and strap-like; bracts around flowerheads in 2rows, outer bracts minute; seeds brown, ribbed, cylindrical, 8–10 mm long including hair-like beak 5–6mm long, that is surrounded at the base by 5 or 6 spreading scales; apex of hair-like beak with a row of white bristles 6–7 mm long.

Dispersal: Spreads by seed, pieces and new rosettes from lateral roots.

Edible Uses

Leaves – raw or cooked. A pleasant mild taste, the leaves are a favoured wild salad in France.


Medicinal Uses

The plant can be used as a stomachic.

Other Uses

None known

Notes: A serious invader of pastures and crop land. Chokes headers. Spread enhanced by continual cropping. Drought resistant and can provide useful grazing. Chondrilla Rust Fungus, Puccinia chondrillae, has successfully controlled the narrow-leaved form of Skeleton Weed. The eradication program for Skeleton Weed in WA has limited its spread.

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