Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Another new species for me

with 33 comments

On the bank of Bull Creek in St. Edward’s Park on September 26th I came across a plant with small flower heads (maybe a third of an inch across) that I didn’t recognize. I could tell that it clearly belonged to the sunflower family, and that was all. Not knowing what it was didn’t keep me from taking some pictures, helped along by intermittent sunlight filtering through the treetops and reaching the plant.

After I got home I started going down the Asteraceae section of Bill Carr’s Travis County plant list, looking on the Internet for pictures of each species I wasn’t familiar with to see if I could make a match. Fortunately I didn’t have to go too far down the list, as the plant seemed to be Bidens frondosa. According to a Wikipedia article, “its many common names include devil’s beggarticks, devil’s-pitchfork, devil’s bootjack, sticktights, bur marigold, pitchfork weed, tickseed sunflower, leafy beggarticks, and common beggar-ticks.” Those names allude to the plant’s fruit, which I haven’t yet seen. The USDA map shows this species growing in the 48 contiguous American states except Montana.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 10, 2019 at 4:38 AM

33 Responses

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  1. Always exciting to find a new species, wildflowers or otherwise.

    Steve Gingold

    October 10, 2019 at 6:45 AM

    • It is, and this was the second new one in three weeks on a mile-long stretch of Bull Creek.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 10, 2019 at 7:01 AM

  2. What a prize. And it sure looks its best against a dark background.

    Michael Scandling

    October 10, 2019 at 7:02 AM

    • The lighting and background favored me, that’s for sure. The next day I found a second plant of this species about a mile further up Bull Creek.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 10, 2019 at 7:07 AM

  3. These beggarticks certainly are effective at spreading themselves around. I fell into a patch at Pawnee Rock in Kansas, and later pulled 328 seeds from my sweater. I don’t usually count such things, but there were so many I was curious. I’m not sure which species it was, but the fellows at the Co-op said it was ‘sticktight,’ and I remember white flowers, so it might have been the introduced Bidens pilosa.

    Your find helped me identify yet another beggartick from the Sandyland Sanctuary: B. aristosa — bearded beggarticks or tickseed sunflower. I found the species on the BONAP page and photos at Wildflower.org. When I looked at the Sandylands plant list, there it was.

    The bracts on this one remind me of the leaves on Verbena rigida. Compositionally, they make a nice substitute for the absent ray flowers.


    October 10, 2019 at 7:10 AM

    • Counting 328 seeds goes above and beyond the arithmetic call of duty for you.

      The only other Bidens species I’d knowingly seen was at the Wildflower Center years and years ago, and these flower heads look different, so initially I had no clue. What I saw way back then could well have been the Bidens aristosa you’re now happy to have identified, and which I looked at pictures of when I went down Bill Carr’s plant list.

      I see what you mean about the bracts of this species resembling the leaves of Verbena rigida.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 10, 2019 at 7:31 AM

  4. First of all, this is great shot. Secondly, you have a determination to find things out that is truly impressive. I also think that this sunflower variety should also be found here in BC. I will look for it next summer. Have a great day, Steve!

    Peter Klopp

    October 10, 2019 at 7:46 AM

    • Happy hunting, Peter. I was surprised to find that this species, previously unknown to me, covers such a broad range in North America.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 10, 2019 at 7:51 AM

  5. I recognized immediately. I have it growing abundantly, it having invited itself into my wetland garden. There are much prettier Bidens species, like Bidens cernua. Currently my little dog has a face full of the burs but they come out easily.


    October 10, 2019 at 8:58 AM

    • Then that’s another species we share—new to me but not to thee. And yes, I’ve seen a prettier species of Bidens. I’ve yet to see the burs of any of those species. Now that I’ve seen the plant locally, maybe I’ll see some burs.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 10, 2019 at 10:09 AM

      • They look a little like horseshoes, but wider at the “toe”. They come out quite easily. I’ve often wondered about plants whose burs attach more ferociously. It seems counter-productive for the seeds to attach so firmly they don’t readily come off fur, for instance.


        October 11, 2019 at 9:30 AM

        • Maybe the seeds that cling more tightly are optimized to germinate much later.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 11, 2019 at 12:24 PM

          • I’ve considered that but what I see animals do is chew them to get them off. I know some seeds need to pass through a gut to germinate, but being chewed… Hm.


            October 12, 2019 at 8:23 AM

            • Well, if the species has survived, its seed strategy must be effective. It occurs to me that some of the seeds must get caught in places where an animal can’t chew them off, like the animal’s back.

              Steve Schwartzman

              October 12, 2019 at 8:29 AM

              • In my experience, not so much. The fur back there is usually stiff and smooth, and burs don’t adhere there. It must be that the chewing breaks the seed coat and then it falls and can germinate. Also, it obviously travels quite a bit further in this manner than the more loosely attached Bidens burs. They need to live by water, and so would not want to travel far.


                October 12, 2019 at 8:52 AM

  6. It is a beautiful photo, Steve!

    Lavinia Ross

    October 10, 2019 at 10:47 AM

  7. It’s a pretty flower but with all of those nicknames – it sounds like one to stay away from!!


    October 10, 2019 at 2:43 PM

  8. Great names, especially “The Devil’s Beggarticks” Both beggar and tick suggest something that latches on to you

    Robert Parker

    October 10, 2019 at 5:45 PM

    • That’s a good observation about two kinds of latching on. A third is the latching on of the photographer to the new wildflower.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 10, 2019 at 10:16 PM

  9. So it must grow in WA, but maybe just on the other side of the mountains. I smiled at your process – puzzle about the new plant, photograph it, then comb through a good county list to see if you can ID it. Sounds familiar!!


    October 14, 2019 at 6:29 PM

    • The key thing for me is that I was able to get a few worthy pictures of it. Sometimes all I can get is an informational picture, and then figuring out what the species is doesn’t appeal as much.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 14, 2019 at 7:01 PM

  10. I’m wrong – its distribution in the state is broad. I’ll have to look for it – I see a specimen was collected for the Univ. of Washington herbarium on another island not far from here, just last year. And it likes wet places.


    October 14, 2019 at 6:34 PM

    • While its distribution may be broad, perhaps it’s not common in many of the counties where it occurs. Good luck finding it.

      I’ve been tuned in to native plants in the Austin area for 20 years and yet I never noticed this species till now. Have I been blind?

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 14, 2019 at 7:22 PM

  11. I thought you featured this before. I know I have seen it, but not here.


    October 17, 2019 at 10:31 PM

    • As I learned, this species grows in many places, so I guess it’s natural that you’d have seen it somewhere else. I’m a latecomer.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 18, 2019 at 6:29 AM

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