Common cocklebur (Xanthium strumarium). Photo: Betty Marose

Updated: February 27, 2023

Life cycle

Common cocklebur (Xanthium strumarium), also called rough cocklebur, is a non-native summer annual plant.

Growth habit

Large 2 - 4 ft. high plant with rough, sandpapery, maple-shaped, alternate leaves; stem often purple-spotted; inconspicuous green flowers in leaf axils followed by distinct 1/2 in. prickly burs with hooks.


Reproduces by seed and can be carried long distances because of hooked burs.



Cocklebur seedling

Photo: Bruce Ackley, The Ohio State University,


Cocklebur stems

Photo: Rebekah D. Wallace, University of Georgia,

Stem and fruit

Cocklebur stem and fruit

Photo: Bruce Ackley, The Ohio State University,

Conditions that favor growth

Open ground not planted with grass or another ground cover.

Cultural control

Identify plant, monitor early, manual removal before seeds form; plant grass, ground cover, or cover crop.


Still have a question? Contact us at Ask Extension.