Bidens bipinnata-Spanish Needles

Bidens bipinnata (Spanish Needles) on 9-8-18, #504-11.

Spanish Needles

Bidens bipinnata

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Synonyms of Bidens bipinnataBidens bipinnata var. biternatoides Sherff, Bidens cicutifolia Tausch, Bidens cynapiifolia var. portoricensis (Spreng.) O.E.Schulz, Bidens elongata Tausch, Bidens fervida Colla, Bidens myrrhidifolia Tausch, Bidens pilosa var. bipinnata (L.) Hook.f., Bidens portoricensis Spreng., Bidens wallichii DC., Kerneria bipinnata Gren. & Godr.

Bidens bipinnata L. is the correct and accepted scientific name for the Spanish Needles. It was given this name and described by Carl von Linnaeus in the second edition of Species Plantarum in 1753.

The genus, Bidens L., was described by Carl von Linnaeus in the second edition of Species Plantarum in 1753. According to Plants of the World Online, there are 219 accepted species in the Bidens genus as of 1-18-20 when I am updating this page. There were 231 when I first started this page on 10-20-18. Version 1.1 of The Plant List in 2013 listed a total of 229 species plus 20 infraspecific names. That just goes to show you many plants have multiple species names and botanists (etc.) are at work sorting them out. 


Distribution map of Bidens bipinnata from Plants of the World Online. Facilitated by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet; Retrieved 1-18-20.

Bidens bipinnata is a very versatile species covering a wide range of climates. The areas on the above map in green are where the species is native and purple is where it has been introduced. It may be found in other areas not highlighted. My thanks to Plants of the World Online for permission to use this map.

There are several links at the bottom of the page for further reading.


Bidens bipinnata (Spanish Needles) on 9-8-18, #504-12.

There are way too many Bidens bipinnata on the farm growing in colonies or even as single plants. I remember as a kid getting their seeds stuck in my socks. Too many times, even now, I have to remove them from my plants before going into the house. I try to avoid them but sometimes you just have to wade in. They are definitely one of those plants we love to hate.

I want to thank Pamela Trewatha of the Missouri State University for allowing me to share photos from their website Midwest Weeds and Wildflowers. I try to take as many good photos as I can, but sometimes they don’t always work out or I didn’t take enough.


Young plant of Bidens bipinnata (Spanish Needles) courtesy of Pamela Trewatha of Midwest Weeds and Wildflowers (Missouri State University).

I have many Marigolds and one bed I have to smell the leaves to tell which are Marigolds and Spanish needles. They look a lot like Marigold seedlings.


Bidens bipinnata (Spanish Needles) on 9-30-19, #513-4.

Spanish Needles are no problem until they go to seed. In fact, the plants are kind of nice looking with their dark green ferny leaves and yellow flowers. Every time I want good flower photos they are either haven’t flowered yet, closed, or fading… Some day!


Bidens bipinnata (Spanish Needles) leaf courtesy of Pamela Trewatha of Midwest Weeds and Wildflowers (Missouri State University).

Bidens bipinnata are classed with plants with opposite leaves. The Missouri State University website Midwest Weeds and Wildflowers describe the leaves as being finely divided (bipinnately compound). 

When not in flower and if you are not used to being around them, there are a few other weeds that have similar leaves. The horrible Japanese Hedge Parsley, Torilis japonica, is a “stick-tight” that has similar leaves and is probably the one I love to hate the most (and anyone else who has had to remove them from your socks, clothes, and pets fur). Another weed with similar leaves is the Common Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia).


Bidens bipinnata (Spanish Needles) on 10-3-18, #514-1.

This species has been introduced to many countries and is probably a U.S. native and maybe even China.

They are very adaptable plants and are not really picky about their location. I have them on the farm in full sun to part shade. Information online says they can grow up to 5′ tall… Hmmm. I would hate to run through a patch that tall.


Bidens bipinnata (Spanish Needles) courtesy of Pamela Trewatha of Midwest Weeds and Wildflowers (Missouri State University).

Now that you know the name, you can say “BIPINNATA!” every time they get you instead of using foul language. Well, maybe in addition.

I have enjoyed photographing and learning about the many wildflowers growing on the farm and other areas. I have grown over 500 different plants and most have pages listed on the right side of the blog. I am not an expert, botanist, or horticulturalist. I just like growing, photographing and writing about my experience. I rely on several websites for ID and a horticulturalist I contact if I cannot figure them out. Wildflowers can be somewhat variable from location to location, so sometimes it gets a bit confusing. If you see I have made an error, please let me know so I can correct what I have written.

I hope you found this page useful and be sure to check the links below for more information. They were written by experts and provide much more information. If you can, I would appreciate it if you would click on the “Like” below and leave a comment. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. You can also send an email to me at I would enjoy hearing from you.