Helminthotheca echioides

Common Name(s)



Helminthotheca echioides (L.) Holub



Flora Category

Vascular - Exotic

NVS Species Code


The National Vegetation Survey (NVS) Databank is a physical archive and electronic databank containing records of over 94,000 vegetation survey plots - including data from over 19,000 permanent plots. NVS maintains a standard set of species code abbreviations that correspond to standard scientific plant names from the Ngä Tipu o Aotearoa - New Zealand Plants database.

Structural Class

Dicotyledonous Herbs - Composites


A common weed of waste land, pasture, urban areas, and forest margins. Coastal to montane.

Similar Taxa

The stem and leaf indumentum of oxtongue (Helminthotheca echioides (L.) Holub) has 2-, 3-, 4- or 5-hooked anchor hairs and the hairs of the leaves arise from a conspicuous swollen base. The involucral bracts of the flowers are in two rows, with the five outer involucral bracts ovate to cordate, and the apex of the inner bracts feather-like. Unlike our indigenous oxtongus (Picris spp. ) the achenes of the introduced oxtongue (H. echioides) are dimorphic: the outer achenes, are larger, white, and pilose hairy; the inner shorter, dark-brown and glabrous. In our indigenous oxtongues (Picris spp.) the achenes are never heteromorphic.


Year round in warm climates - otherwise August - May

Flower Colours

Red / Pink,Yellow


Present year round in warm climates otherwise October - July

Year Naturalised



S. Europe, S.W Asia, N. Africa - long known in New Zealand as Picris echioides L.

Reason For Introduction
Probably accidental

Life Cycle Comments
Biennial to short-lived perennial. Sometimes annual in harsh conditions.

Exclusively by seed

Dimorphic. Outer achenes are white and larger than the brown inner achenes. Seed is probably long-lived as this species turns up in agricultural grassland soil that has been recently ploughed

Wind dispersed. The seeds also attach to clothing, wool and other fibres

Moderately drought and cold tolerant.

This page last updated on 31 Mar 2010