Xanthium strumarium , cocklebur, probably originates in North America and has been extensively naturalized elsewhere.
It is monoecious, with the flowers borne in separate unisexual heads: staminate (male) heads situated above the pistillate (female) heads in the inflorescence. The pistillate heads consist of two pistillate flowers surrounded by a spiny involucre. Upon fruiting, these two flowers ripen into two brown to black achenes and they are completely enveloped by the involucre, which becomes a bur. The bur, being buoyant, easily disperses in the water for plants growing along waterways. However, the bur, with its hooked projections, is obviously adapted to dispersal via mammals by becoming entangled in their hair. Once dispersed and deposited on the ground, typically one of the seeds germinates and the plants grows out of the bur.
The Zuni people use the canadense variety for multiple purposes. The chewed seeds are rubbed onto the body before the cactus ceremony to protect it from spines. A compound poultice of seeds is applied to wounds or used to remove splinters. The seeds are also ground, mixed with cornmeal, made into cakes, and steamed for food.
While small quantities of parts of the mature plants may be consumed, the seeds and seedlings should not be eaten in large quantities because they contain significant concentrations of the extremely toxic chemical carboxyatratyloside. The mature plant also contains at least four other toxins.