The Swamp Beggartick is a native erect annual forb, growing from 1 to 6 feet tall on stems that branch freely, stems that are smooth and green initially, then purplish in color.
The leaves, usually opposite, simple, toothed, sometimes deeply cut, with short, slender winged stalks or no stalks. Lower leaves may be 3-cleft. All are narrowly lance-shaped.
The floral array consists of one or 2 to 3 stalked 1/2 inch wide flower heads, on terminal stems or from the upper leaf axils.
Flowers: Each flower head has a number (20 to 40+) of pale yellow to orange disc florets that are perfect, with corollas that have five pointed tips and stamens with dark anthers. Ray florets, which are sterile, are usually missing or very obscure. When present they may number 1 to 5 and are about 1-1/2 inches long and yellow. Around the flowerhead are 6 to 9 yellow-green colored, thin-margined phyllaries whose pointed tips are slightly longer than the disc florets. These ascend and sometimes have spreading tips and resemble a calyx. Subtending the flower head are 2 to 6+ green leafy bracts (calyculi) that are lance shaped, without hair and much longer than the flower head. These tend to spread outward and curve downward from the flower head.
Seed: Fertile flowers produce a 4-angled wedge shaped cypsela with concave top, black to brown colored, with 4 barbed awns, one at the end of each angle. If one side of the cypsela is flattened there will be 3 awns with the center awn usually shorter. These stick to fur and clothing are spread the plant around. Thoreau refers to the Bidens seeds as “shaped somewhat like a little flattish brown quiver, with from two to six downwardly barbed arrows projecting from it.” See his comments below.
Habitat: Swamp Beggar-ticks grows in moist conditions in full or partial sun. It will be found in meadows, marsh edges, roadsides, stream borders, etc. It propagates from self-seeding.
Names: The genus name, Bidens, refers to the 2 "teeth" or the bristles on the cypsela, of the original species. It is from the Latin bis meaning 'two' and dens, meaning 'tooth, i.e. two-toothed. The species, connata, means 'joined' or 'fused together,' and usually refers to opposite leaves that meet at the stem. The author names for the plant classification are: - ‘Muhl’ is for Gotthilf Heinrich Ernst Muhlenberg (1753-1815) American Botanist who produced several catalogs of plants after retiring as a Lutheran pastor. His work on this species was updated and republished by ‘Willd.’ who is Carl Ludwig Willdenow (1765-1812), German botanist, a founder of the study of the geographic distribution of plants. He was director and curator of the Botanic Garden of Berlin.
Comparisons: This is one of the more widespread of the beggar-ticks that do not have ray flowers and is closest in comparison to Devil's Beggartick, but that species has palmately lobed leaves and the cypsela has two barbed awns. Another close relative is Tufted Beggarticks, B. tripartita, where the achene is 3-angled. Some authorities believed that B. connata should be included under B. tripartita.
Above: The disc florets are perfect flowers with a 5-lobed corolla. The yellow-green colored thin-margined phyllaries (2nd photo) are fewer in number than those of B. frondosa. Subtending the phyllaries, the longer green bracts (calyculi) are widely spreading.
Below: Flower heads have shorter stalks than B. frondosa, and fewer of the green leafy calyculi.
Below: Leaves are simple, not lobed like B. frondosa with winged stalks and the stems are generally always purplish.
Below left: 1st photo - Seed heads forming seeds. 2nd photo - Seeds formed - note the barbed awn on each corner of the dark seed.
Notes: Swamp Beggartick is not indigenous to the Garden. It was in the Garden at the time of Martha Crone's 1951 Garden Census, was missed on the 1896 census and present again on the 2009 census. This species is not nearly as widespread in North America as B. frondosa. It is primarily found in the eastern half of the continent, from Ontario eastward in Canada and from the Dakotas south to Kansas and eastward in the U.S. Within Minnesota it has been found in less than half the counties, mostly on the eastern side of the state. In the metro it is absent from Scott and Dakota.
There are eight species of Bidens found in Minnesota, all named with 'Beggar-ticks' as part of the common name. Four species are found in the Garden: B. cernua, Nodding Beggar-ticks (Bur Marigold); B. connata, Swamp Beggar-ticks; B. frondosa, Devil's Beggar-ticks; and B. tripartita, Three-lobe Beggar-ticks.
Medicinal Use: The root of this plant and of Bidens frondosa have been used to make a tincture used for treating irritations, inflammations, pain, bleeding of the urinary tract and other uses. (Ref. #12).
Thoreau wrote in his journals about the seeds "If in October you have occasion to pass through or along some half-dried pool, these seeds will often adhere to your clothes in surprising numbers. It is as if you had unconsciously made your way through the ranks of some countless but invisible lilliputian army, which in their anger had discharged all their arrows and darts at you, though none of them reached higher than your legs."
References: Plant characteristics are generally from sources 1A, 32, W2, W3, W7 & W8 plus others as specifically applied. Distribution principally from W1, W2 and 28C. Planting history generally from 1, 4 & 4a. Other sources by specific reference. See Reference List for details.
Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. Text and photos are by G. D. Bebeau unless otherwise credited. "www.friendsofthewildflowergarden.org"