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Bristly Oxtongue

Helminthotheca echioides

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Asteraceae (Daisy)
Also in this family:
Alpine Blue Sow-thistle, Alpine Cotula, Alpine Fleabane, Alpine Saw-wort, Annual Ragweed, Annual Sunflower, Argentine Fleabane, Autumn Hawkbit, Autumn Oxeye, Beaked Hawksbeard, Beggarticks, Bilbao Fleabane, Black Knapweed, Black-eyed Susan, Blanketflower, Blue Fleabane, Blue Globe-thistle, Broad-leaved Cudweed, Broad-leaved Ragwort, Brown Knapweed, Butterbur, Buttonweed, Cabbage Thistle, Canadian Fleabane, Canadian Goldenrod, Carline Thistle, Chalk Knapweed, Chamois Ragwort, Changing Michaelmas Daisy, Chicory, Chinese Mugwort, Chinese Ragwort, Coltsfoot, Common Blue Sow-thistle, Common Cat's-ear, Common Cudweed, Common Daisy, Common Dandelion, Common Fleabane, Common Goldenrod, Common Groundsel, Common Michaelmas Daisy, Common Mugwort, Common Ragwort, Common Wormwood, Coneflower, Confused Michaelmas Daisy, Corn Chamomile, Corn Marigold, Cornflower, Cotton Thistle, Cottonweed, Creeping Thistle, Daisy Bush, Dwarf Cudweed, Dwarf Thistle, Early Goldenrod, Eastern Groundsel, Eastern Leopardsbane, Elecampane, English Hawkweed, Fen Ragwort, Feverfew, Field Fleawort, Field Wormwood, Fox and Cubs, French Tarragon, Gallant Soldier, Garden Lettuce, Giant Butterbur, Glabrous-headed Hawkweed, Glandular Globe-thistle, Glaucous Michaelmas Daisy, Globe Artichoke, Globe-thistle, Goat's Beard, Golden Ragwort, Golden Samphire, Goldilocks Aster, Grass-leaved Goldenrod, Great Lettuce, Greater Burdock, Greater Knapweed, Grey-headed Hawkweed, Guernsey Fleabane, Hairless Blue Sow-thistle, Hairless Leptinella, Hairy Michaelmas Daisy, Harpur Crewe's Leopardsbane, Hawkweed Oxtongue, Heath Cudweed, Heath Groundsel, Hemp Agrimony, Highland Cudweed, Hoary Mugwort, Hoary Ragwort, Hybrid Knapweed, Intermediate Burdock, Irish Fleabane, Jersey Cudweed, Jerusalem Artichoke, Lance-leaved Hawkweed, Lavender-cotton, Leafless Hawksbeard, Least Lettuce, Leopardplant, Leopardsbane, Leptinella, Lesser Burdock, Lesser Hawkbit, Lesser Sunflower, London Bur-marigold, Magellan Ragwort, Marsh Cudweed, Marsh Hawksbeard, Marsh Ragwort, Marsh Sow-thistle, Marsh Thistle, Meadow Thistle, Melancholy Thistle, Mexican Fleabane, Milk Thistle, Mountain Everlasting, Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Musk Thistle, Narrow-leaved Cudweed, Narrow-leaved Hawkweed, Narrow-leaved Michaelmas Daisy, Narrow-leaved Ragwort, New England Hawkweed, New Zealand Holly, Nipplewort, Nodding Bur-marigold, Northern Hawksbeard, Norwegian Mugwort, Oxeye Daisy, Oxford Ragwort, Pearly Everlasting, Perennial Cornflower, Perennial Ragweed, Perennial Sow-thistle, Perennial Sunflower, Pineapple Mayweed, Plantain-leaved Leopardsbane, Ploughman's Spikenard, Plymouth Thistle, Pontic Blue Sow-thistle, Pot Marigold, Prickly Lettuce, Prickly Sow-thistle, Purple Coltsfoot, Rayed Tansy, Red Star Thistle, Red-seeded Dandelion, Red-tipped Cudweed, Robin's Plantain, Roman Chamomile, Rough Cocklebur, Rough Hawkbit, Rough Hawksbeard, Russian Lettuce, Safflower, Salsify, Saw-wort, Scented Mayweed, Scentless Mayweed, Sea Aster, Sea Mayweed, Sea Wormwood, Seaside Daisy, Shaggy Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Shaggy Soldier, Shasta Daisy, Shetland Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Shrub Ragwort, Sicilian Chamomile, Silver Ragwort, Slender Mugwort, Slender Thistle, Small Cudweed, Small Fleabane, Smooth Cat's-ear, Smooth Hawksbeard, Smooth Sow-thistle, Sneezeweed, Sneezewort, Spear Thistle, Spotted Cat's-ear, Spotted Hawkweed, Sticky Groundsel, Stinking Chamomile, Stinking Hawksbeard, Tall Fleabane, Tall Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Tansy, Thin-leaved Sunflower, Trifid Bur-marigold, Tuberous Thistle, Tyneside Leopardplant, Viper's Grass, Wall Lettuce, Welsh Groundsel, Welted Thistle, White Butterbur, White Buttons, Willdenow's Leopardsbane, Winter Heliotrope, Wood Burdock, Wood Ragwort, Woody Fleabane, Woolly Thistle, Yarrow, Yellow Chamomile, Yellow Fox and Cubs, Yellow Oxeye, Yellow Star Thistle, Yellow Thistle, York Groundsel
Life Cycle:
Annual or Biennial
Maximum Size:
120 centimetres tall
Cliffs, fields, gardens, grassland, hedgerows, meadows, roadsides, seaside, walls, wasteland, woodland.

Yellow, many petals
The flowers of Bristly Oxtongue, indigenous to the UK, are small and daisy-like in appearance. Each flower head consists of numerous yellow petals arranged in a disc-shaped fashion, surrounding a central, elongated cone. The petals radiate outward, creating a bright and cheerful display. The plant's overall appearance is characterized by its bristly and rough texture, with the stems and leaves featuring stiff hairs. The flowers bloom in clusters along the stems, adding bursts of yellow to the natural landscape.
Bristly Oxtongue, native to the UK, produces small, dry fruits known as achenes. These fruits are typically oblong or cylindrical in shape and feature a bristly or spiky outer surface, contributing to the plant's name. Each achene contains a single seed and is dispersed when the plant releases them into the surrounding environment. The fruits of Bristly Oxtongue play a role in the plant's reproductive cycle, ensuring the continuation of its species.
Alternate leaves, in a rosette. The leaves are bristly and covered in many small raised bumps, almost looking as if it has some kind of disease. Each bump has a hooked hair emerging from it.
Bristly Oxtongue, a plant native to the UK, is not typically known for having a distinctive fragrance. Its aromatic profile is generally neutral, with no notable scent associated with the flowers or other parts of the plant. Bristly Oxtongue tends to be appreciated more for its visual appeal, particularly the bright and cheerful display of its small, yellow daisy-like flowers, rather than for any fragrance it might emit.
Other Names:
Annual Fleabane, Bitterweed, False Oxeye, Ragweed.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Helminthotheca echioides, also known as false ox-eye or annual fleabane, is an annual flowering plant in the Asteraceae family. It is native to Europe and Asia and can be found in fields, meadows, and along roadsides. The plant typically grows to a maximum height of 120 cm, with narrow, lanceolate leaves and white or pink-purple flowers that bloom in the summer. The plant is considered a weed in some areas, as it can spread rapidly and outcompete other plants. It is not commonly used as an ornamental plant.


Bristly oxtongue, also known by its scientific name Helminthotheca echioides, is a common weed found in North America, Europe, and Asia. It belongs to the family Asteraceae, which includes other common weeds such as dandelion and thistle. While it is often considered a nuisance plant due to its ability to spread rapidly and overtake other vegetation, bristly oxtongue also has several potential benefits.

Description and Characteristics

Bristly oxtongue is an annual or biennial plant that can grow up to 4 feet tall. Its leaves are lance-shaped and covered in bristly hairs, giving the plant its common name. The flowers are yellow and daisy-like, with a central disc surrounded by several ray flowers. The plant blooms from May to October, and its seeds are spread by wind and animals.

Habitat and Distribution

Bristly oxtongue is commonly found in disturbed areas such as roadsides, fields, and gardens. It can grow in a variety of soil types, including sandy, loamy, and clay soils. Bristly oxtongue is native to Europe and Asia, but it has been introduced to North America and other parts of the world.


Despite being considered a weed, bristly oxtongue has several potential uses. Its leaves and flowers can be used to make tea, which has been used traditionally to treat a variety of ailments, including coughs, colds, and sore throats. The tea has also been used as a diuretic and to stimulate digestion.

Bristly oxtongue is also used as a source of nectar for honeybees and other pollinators. Its deep yellow flowers are attractive to bees and can help support local pollinator populations.

In addition, bristly oxtongue has been studied for its potential as a biofuel crop. Its high oil content and ability to grow in marginal soils make it a promising candidate for biofuel production.


While bristly oxtongue has potential benefits, it can also be a nuisance plant that can quickly overtake other vegetation. Control methods include hand-pulling, mowing, and the use of herbicides. Preventative measures such as maintaining healthy soil and planting competing vegetation can also help reduce the spread of bristly oxtongue.


Bristly oxtongue may be considered a weed, but it also has several potential uses and benefits. Its leaves and flowers can be used to make tea, it serves as a source of nectar for pollinators, and it has potential as a biofuel crop. However, it can also be a nuisance plant that requires control measures to prevent it from spreading and overtaking other vegetation.

Additional Information about Bristly Oxtongue

Bristly oxtongue has also been studied for its potential as a natural herbicide. Its extracts have been found to be effective at inhibiting the growth of other plant species, making it a potential tool for weed control in agriculture.

Additionally, bristly oxtongue has been used in traditional medicine for its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Its leaves and flowers have been applied topically to treat skin conditions such as eczema and rashes.

In terms of its nutritional content, bristly oxtongue is a good source of vitamins A and C, as well as minerals such as calcium and potassium. Its leaves can be eaten raw or cooked, and are often used in salads or as a vegetable.

Despite its potential benefits, it is important to note that bristly oxtongue can also have negative impacts. It can be toxic to livestock if consumed in large quantities, and its sharp bristles can cause skin irritation in humans. Therefore, it is important to handle the plant with care and to control its spread in areas where it may pose a risk to livestock.

Another potential benefit of bristly oxtongue is its use in soil remediation. The plant has been found to have a high tolerance for heavy metals such as lead and zinc, and can be used to remove these pollutants from contaminated soils. This process, known as phytoremediation, involves planting bristly oxtongue in contaminated areas and allowing the plant to absorb the pollutants from the soil.

Furthermore, bristly oxtongue has been studied for its potential as an insecticide. Its extracts have been found to have insecticidal properties against a range of insect pests, including mosquitoes and aphids. This makes it a potential candidate for use in organic pest control.

In terms of its ecological impact, bristly oxtongue can provide important habitat for wildlife. Its leaves and seeds are a food source for many bird species, and its flowers attract a range of pollinators. Additionally, its dense growth can provide cover and nesting sites for small mammals and insects.

Another potential benefit of bristly oxtongue is its use in erosion control. The plant has a deep root system that can help stabilize soil on slopes and prevent erosion. This makes it a potential candidate for use in re-vegetation projects on degraded land.

In addition, bristly oxtongue has been studied for its potential as a source of natural dye. Its flowers produce a bright yellow dye that can be used to color textiles and other materials.

Bristly oxtongue also has cultural significance in some parts of the world. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is used to treat coughs and other respiratory ailments. It has also been used in folk medicine in Europe to treat a range of ailments, including rheumatism and liver problems.

Lastly, bristly oxtongue has potential as a source of sustainable biomass. Its fast growth rate and ability to grow in poor soil conditions make it a promising candidate for biomass production, which could be used to produce renewable energy.

Overall, bristly oxtongue is a versatile plant with potential benefits and uses in areas such as agriculture, medicine, ecology, and energy production. While it can be a nuisance weed in some situations, it also has the potential to provide important ecological services and economic benefits. Further research is needed to fully explore its potential and to develop sustainable management strategies that balance its benefits and risks.

Some Facts about Bristly Oxtongue

Facts about Bristly Oxtongue:

  • Bristly Oxtongue is a weed that is native to Europe, but has spread to other parts of the world including North America and Australia.
  • Its scientific name is Helminthotheca echioides, and it belongs to the Asteraceae family.
  • The plant can grow up to 3 feet tall and has spiny leaves and yellow flowers.
  • Bristly Oxtongue has been used for a variety of purposes including as a natural herbicide, for soil remediation, as a source of natural dye, and in traditional medicine.
  • The plant has the potential to be a sustainable source of biomass for renewable energy production.

Bristly Oxtongue, also known as Helminthotheca echioides, is a weed with spiny leaves and yellow flowers that is native to Europe but has spread to other parts of the world. Despite being considered a nuisance plant, it has potential benefits and uses in areas such as agriculture, medicine, ecology, and energy production. These include its use as a natural herbicide, for soil remediation, as a source of natural dye, and as a potential source of sustainable biomass. However, its use should be approached with caution, as it can also have negative impacts and should be controlled in areas where it poses a risk to livestock or other plants.


Bristly Oxtongue filmed at the following locations:
  • Worcester, Worcestershire: 23rd June 2023
  • Lower Moor Nature Reserve, Gloucetershire: 28th June 2023
  • Duxbury, Lancashire: 2nd July 2023

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Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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