Spanish needles is an annual herb in the sunflower family that is widely used in warm regions around the world as a vegetable and as a medicinal plant. It is native to tropical America and is grown in tropical and subtropical regions in both the old and the new worlds. The leaves and young shoots are used raw or cooked. They are used in salads and in soups and stews. They are also dried for storage. Young shoot tips are used to make a tea. It is widely used in traditional medicine in the treatment of a wide range of complaints, often being used to soothe pain. It is used in traditional Chinese medicine and is known as the medicinal herb xian feng cao.
Roots, leaves and seed have antibacterial, antidysenteric, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antimalarial, diuretic, hepato-protective and hypotensive activities. The leaves are considered to be alterative, anti-inflammatory, carminative, styptic and vermifuge. Taken as an infusion or decoction, or as a juice of the leaves, it is used to treat a range of digestive problems, including stomach aches and intestinal worms; as well as coughs, angina, headache, fever, diabetes, muscular pains etc. Eating the leaves as a vegetable in the daily diet has been observed to prevent goiter in the Philippines. A juice made from the leaves is used to dress wounds and ulcers.
Spanish Needles has white flowers and flowers and light green, compound leaves. It is easy to grow and it has a long blooming season. Bidens pilosa is an erect, annual herb which stands from 0.3-2 m high and bears opposite, pinnately compound, broadly ovate, (3-)5-9-lobed leaves 3-20 cm long and 2.5-12 cm wide. Leaf segments ovate to lanceolate lobed or bilobed at the base with margins crenate-serrate and apices acute. Stems are reddish tinged; 4-angled, simple, or branched. Heads solitary or in lax paniculate cymes at the ends of the main stem and lateral branches, usually radiate, 5 – 12 mm broad. Heads with 2 rows of involucral bracts, outer ones 7-10, spathulate, reflexed at anthesis, 3-4 mm long, inner ones ovate lanceolate; ray flowers absent or 4-8, sterile, corolla 7-15 mm long, white to yellow or pinkish, disk flowers with 3.5 – 5 mm long, yellow corolla. Achenes are black, 4-8 ribbed, linear, 6-16 mm long, with 2-3(-5) retrorsely barbed bristles of 2-4 mm long.
- Prepare a mixture of half potting soil and half sand, perlite or vermiculite. Water the mixture so that it is moist but not wet.
- Put the seeds on the soil.
- Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil.
- Water the seeds.
- Place the pots in an area with warm temperatures in full sun or part shade.
- When the seedlings are a few inches tall, they can be transplanted.