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Featured Plant

Bidens sp.


Scientific Name: Bidens sp.

Common Names: Mexican Stick Seed

Family: Asteraceae

Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial

Environment: Likes full sun and water occasionally to regularly; tolerates mild frost

Bloom: Fall, Winter, Spring

Uses: Sunny border

Other: Native to southern Mexico



Bidens sp.

Below the towering tree daisies and tree dahlias of the Mesoamerican Cloud Forest grows another member of the Aster family – Bidens – much shorter in stature but quite striking with its delicate dark green leaves and brilliant golden flowers. It forms a one–two foot high mass around the edges of the Cloud Forest and was collected as seed by Dennis Breedlove and SFBGS Curator Don Mahoney in Oaxaca, Mexico in 1991. They found it growing in the wild alongside another of our cloud forest favorites, the firecracker plant (Cuphea ignea).


Bidens, like many genera in the Aster family, is complex and variable taxonomically. It is a widely distributed genus closely related to Coreopsis, Cosmos and Dahlia. The greatest concentration of more than 200 species is in the tropics and subtropics of the New World. Our particular specimen has yet to be identified to species even though much taxonomic work has been completed on this plant family for Mexico. It most closely resembles Bidens ferulifolia, in having 1–1.75 inch golden flowers with 4-5 ray florets and leaves that are most variable, divided into 3 leaflets or more commonly finely divided like a fern. It also has a sweet honey-like fragrance, attracting honeybees and butterflies.

The common names of Bidens include beggarticks, black jack, burr marigolds, cobbler's pegs, Spanish needles, stickseeds, tickseeds and tickseed sunflowers – names referring to the bristly fruits that end in two sharp barbs and tend to stick to animals' fur and our clothing. This is a great adaptation for dispersal of the seeds. The genus name refers to the same character. Bidenscomes from the Latin bi (two) and dens (tooth).

Bidens ferulifolia's native range is from Arizona and New Mexico to northern Mexico. Several cultivars of this species are sold under the names 'Golden Eye', 'Yellow Charm', 'Golden Goddess', 'Gold Marie', 'Peter's Gold Carpet'.

Text by Mona Bourell. Photos by Joanne Taylor.


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