Information on Bristly Oxtongue

Common Name: Bristly Oxtongue
Scientific Name: Helminthotheca echioides
Irish Name: Teanga bhó gharbh
Family Group: Asteraceae
Distribution: View Map (Courtesy of the BSBI)
Flowering Period


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Bristly Oxtongue is not easily confused with other wild plants on this web site.


This plant is also known as Prickly Oxtongue and one can immediately see why -   the stems and bracts are covered with rough, hooked bristles and the leaves are coarse and speckled all over with pimples.  An annual or biennial, it grows to about 80cm on disturbed and waste ground, rough grassy places and beside rivers.  The bright yellow flowerheads (20-25mm across) have strap-shaped rays, the outer rays often having red stripes behind.  These flowerheads turn into a white 'clock' or pappus of seeds.  The coarse, oblong leaves have wavy margins and are covered with swollen, whitish pimples, the upper leaves clasping the stems with unstalked bases, the lower being stalked.  This plant was probably introduced into Ireland and it belongs to the Asteraceae family.

I first recorded this plant growing near Wellingtonbridge, Co Wexford in 2009.  However when I returned to photograph it, the 'strimmers' had tidied up that particular location and it was nowhere to be seen.  I found it again, in another Wexford location, Ballyhack, and I photographed it there in June 2009.  

If you are satisfied you have correctly identified this plant, please submit your sighting to the National Biodiversity Data Centre

Oxtongue, Bristly
Oxtongue, Bristly

The distribution of this plant is now very much confined to the south-eastern area of Ireland, with only a few exceptions.  It was first recorded in 1727 by Caleb Threlkeld (1676-1728)  'a dissenting minister born in Cumberland and long settled in Dublin (who) laid the foundations of Irish botany in his well known Synopsis Stirpium Hibernicarum of 1727'.* 

A somewhat more recent botanist, Nathaniel Colgan (1851-1919) wrote that Bristly Oxtongue 'occurs but sparingly in most of its Co. Dublin stations and is apparently extinct in many of those recorded by the earlier authorities.' *

*From the Flora of the County Dublin by Nathaniel Colgan (1904)