HomespacerSpanish Needlesspacer

jerry jackson
Photographed by Bette Jackson

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Source: Spanish Needles 3

Length of Segment: 00:01:07

Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. The weedy plant known as 'Spanish needles' is also sometimes known as 'devil's pitchfork'. To science, it's known as Bidens alba. Bidens means 'two teeth', referring to the two needle-like prongs that extend like tines of a miniature pitchfork from each black, sliver-like seed. All of these names refer to one very functional characteristic of its seeds. A close look at the composite, white-petaled, one inch diameter flower of Spanish needles reveals a tight cluster of yellow tube flowers in the center. Those around the outside mature first, followed by those to the center. The maturing seeds crowd one another at the base, causing the tiny pitchforks to be spread apart, arranged tines-out in a globe much like that formed by the tiny parachutes on the seed heads of a dandelion, another very successful weedy composite flower. A close look at the tines reveals that each is also barbed, an exquisite design for grabbing hold and hanging on for the ride.

'With the Wild Things' is produced at the Whitaker Center in the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. For 'The Wild Things', I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson.

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