BRISTLY OXTONGUE

Helminthotheca echioides

(Formerly: Picris echioides)
Daisy & Dandelion Family [Asteraceae]

Flowers:
month8jun month8june month8jul month8july month8aug month8sep month8sept month8oct month8nov

Pappus: pappusZpossible (short)
pappus8sep pappus8sept pappus8oct pappus8nov pappus8dec

status
statusZarchaeophyte
flower
flower8yellow
inner
inner8orange
morph
morph8actino
petals
petalsZMany
stem
stem8round
stem
stem8milkysap stem8milkylatexsparse
contact
contactZlowish

8th July 2016, industrial waste land, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. Photo: © RWD
This specimen is somewhat sprawling; most are upright. The leaves are spiny with many of the spines atop a pale-coloured mesa.


8th July 2016, industrial waste land, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. Photo: © RWD
It grows up to 80cm and is a robust plant with thick spiny stems.


8th July 2016, industrial waste land, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. Photo: © RWD
It is well-branched with lanceolate dark-green leaves beneath each branch. The whole plant is covered in rough-feeling spines, but they aren't particularly penetrative.


3rd July 2013, Horton, Nr. Ilminster, Somerset Photo: © Kenneth Layzell
Leaves variable, mainly linear (long and narrow) whilst others are broad-lanceolate, but the most distinctive feature are the large pimple-like raised flat-topped glands (mesas) where the longer bristles emerge.


3rd July 2013, Horton, Nr. Ilminster, Somerset Photo: © Kenneth Layzell
Flower-heads usually bunched close together. Hairs on stems are whitish and lack pimply glands and are not bristly. Large pimply glands on leaves most visible on leaf lower left.


3rd July 2013, Horton, Nr. Ilminster, Somerset Photo: © Kenneth Layzell
These flowers have finished flowering and will soon bear parachuted seeds (a pappus).


3rd July 2013, Horton, Nr. Ilminster, Somerset Photo: © Kenneth Layzell
Flower-heads usually bunched close together making it rather difficult to see what is happening. The bristles look vicious but are just slightly prickly (or so one source says - try grabbing it yourself!). Leaves curled over at the edges.


8th July 2016, industrial waste land, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. Photo: © RWD
Two flowers atop separate petioles; the leftmost is still hidden behind its large bracts. the spiny leaves are the sharpest on the flowerheads. These are also infused purplish-red.


8th July 2016, industrial waste land, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. Photo: © RWD


8th July 2016, industrial waste land, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. Photo: © RWD
The outer bracts are broad and in the form of a leaky tea-cup, but the inner ones immediately surrounding the florets - the involucre bracts aka phyllaries - are a darker green, much narrower, and with a long point at the end.


8th July 2016, industrial waste land, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. Photo: © RWD
The 5 large bracts very loosely surrounding the flower head are directed upwards into a tea-cup like shape (albeit, one which will let all the tea out). They are covered in long tapering hairs (many devoid of tiny barbs at their tips) emanating from pale mesas. Whereas the hairs on the flower stalk do not emanate from mesas but almost all have barbs. The narrower phyllaries immediately surround the florets.


8th July 2016, industrial waste land, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. Photo: © RWD
The outer ray florets have an orange-red stripe along the centre, but this is not an identifying feature - several yellow Asteraceae flowers have this feature on the outer ray-florets, like several Hawk's-beards and Hawkweeds. What is an identifying feature are the 5 broad outer tea-cup shaped spiny bracts.


8th July 2016, industrial waste land, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. Photo: © RWD
The narrow phyllaries are darker-green, sparsely covered in tapering and linear hairs, with and without barbs on the end.


8th July 2016, industrial waste land, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. Photo: © RWD
Has both yellow concolorous ray florets and disc florets.


8th July 2016, industrial waste land, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. Photo: © RWD
The female florets in the centre are hermaphroditic, with a coaxial yellow anther with yellow pollen grains wrapped around a central style with a darkish forked stigma at the end.


8th July 2016, industrial waste land, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. Photo: © RWD
The hairs on the flower stalk (petiole) are of variable length and thickness, some broad and tapering, others are uniformly thin; but all have a two (or three) downwardly-directed tiny barbs at their tips. These hairs feel as rough as an Ox's tongue, hence the common name of the plant. Not all hairs have these barbs. The flower stalk is also shallowly ribbed/grooved.
It occurs to your Author, that since most barbed hairs are actually on the flower stalks, that this might be an alternative method of transferring the flower elsewhere, by catching on animals fur.


3rd July 2013, Horton, Nr. Ilminster, Somerset Photo: © Kenneth Layzell
The whitish-green pimples on the leaves vary in size. Leaves with similarly-coloured pale-green mid-rib.


3rd July 2013, Horton, Nr. Ilminster, Somerset Photo: © Kenneth Layzell
Glandless hairy/bristly stems and pimply/bristly leaves.


8th July 2016, industrial waste land, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. Photo: © RWD
The hairs on the upper surface of the leaves come from tiny flat-topped pimples, (mesa is the correct but non-botanical term). The pimples are tiny for short hairs and proportionally larger for longer hairs. Not all hairs have tiny barbs at their ends, indeed, only few do in this particular photo. The hair pimples on the basal leaves are more prominent than those on the basal leaves of Common Fiddleneck (Amsinckia micrantha).


8th July 2016, industrial waste land, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. Photo: © RWD
On the upper surface of leaves are a few mesas with a pale-green stiff hair each which tapers to a point. The size of the stiff hairs is proportional to the size of the mesa. The leaf surface is also covered in tiny paler pimples smaller than grains of salt.


8th July 2016, industrial waste land, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. Photo: © RWD
The edges of leaves also have shorter and smaller tapering hairs, as well as along the mid-rib at the back of the leaf (which is only curved like this because your Author is gingerly bending it over in order to photograph its underside - who said they only slightly prick).


Not to be semantically confused with : Oxeye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare), Autumn Oxeye (Leucanthemum serotina), Hawkweed Oxtongue (Picris hierarcioides) [plants with similar names and belonging to the same Family but in a differing genus but which have white petals which are broader]. Nor with Yellow Oxeye (Telekia speciosa) or Hawkweed Oxtongue (Picris hieracioides) which are also yellow and in the same family but in differing genera. Oxlip (), Yellow Oxytropis (Oxytropis campestris), Oxtongue Broomrape (Orobanche picridis) and Purple Oxytropis (Oxytropis halleri) also sound similar but are in differing families altogether.

Similarities to : Hawkweed Oxtongue (Picris hierarcioides), and appears as 4 differing sub-species: ssp. hieracioides, ssp. spinulosa, ssp. villarsii, ssp. grandiflora. All have stiff bristles on the stems which are hooked at their ends, but only Bristly Oxtongue has 5 bracts in the form of a very leaky tea-cup loosely cupping the flower.

Some similarities to : Common Fiddleneck (Amsinckia micrantha) which is about the same height, has very similar leaves with similar bristles and stems and yellow-coloured flowers but they are 5-petalled and belong to the different Borage Family (Boraginaceae).

Distinguishing Feature : the large pale-green pimples on the leaves where bristles emerge.

Bristly Oxtongue is in a genus all on its' own (in the UK; Worldwide there are maybe 4 more in the Genus). It inhabits rough grassy places especially near the sea or on clayey soils and occurs most often in the triangle formed by Cornwall, Hull and Dover, with other dense occurrences on both the North and South coasts of Wales. There are very few occupied hectads north of Arnside. It is a biennial/annual. Its scientific name alludes to its former use as a treatment for internal infestations of parasitic worms, aka helminths. The anthelmintic properties are bestowed upon the plant by the (sparse) milky white latex containing several sesquiterpene lactones, such as Lactucin, DeOxyLactucin and Lactucopicrin. It seems some animals such as dogs may self-medicate themselves by eating the plant with relish (not Hendersons:-), according to one owner. There is a trend amongst the Asteraceae family to possess such sesquiterpene lactones within the hair glands, but in the case of Chicory, Sow-thistles such as Smooth Sow-Thistle and Lettuce they are components of the milky sap of the stems (or of the roots in the case of Chicory). Your Author has investigated the chemical composition of currently prescribed anthelmintics and finds that none of them are lactones.


  Helminthotheca echioides  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Asteraceae  

Distribution
 family8Daisy & Dandelion family8Asteraceae

 BSBI maps
genus8Helminthotheca
Helminthotheca
(Oxtongues)

BRISTLY OXTONGUE

Helminthotheca echioides

(Formerly: Picris echioides)
Daisy & Dandelion Family [Asteraceae]