Helminthotheca echioides
Picris echioides inflorescence.jpg
Scientific classification
H. echioides
Binomial name
Helminthotheca echioides

Picris echioides L. [2]
Helmintia echioides (L.) Gaertn. [3]

Helminthotheca echioides, known as bristly (or prickly) oxtongue,[4][5] is a stiff annual or biennial herb native to Europe and North Africa. It was traditionally used as an antihelminthic treatment.[6]


The seed head of Helminthotheca echioides
Basal rosette of leaves of Helminthotheca echioides

H. echioides may grow up to 90 cm (35 in) tall, with a thick, furrowed stem and spreading branches. The leaves are 10–20 cm (4–8 in) long, oblanceolate with a short petiole. The leaves, branches and stem are all covered in thick bristles. The inflorescences are 2–3.5 cm (0.8–1.4 in) wide and subtended by between 3 and 5 large ovate-cordate involucral bracts.[7] These large bracts are the defining feature of the genus Helminthotheca.[8]

A number of infraspecific taxa are recognised, varying in their leaf shape.[9]


Helminthotheca echioides is native to the Mediterranean Basin, but has become widely naturalised outside that range. In the British Isles, it is widely distributed in the south and east, but more patchily distributed to the north and west.[10] In Northern Ireland, H. echioides is only found on the north side of Belfast Lough.[3]

It has been introduced to North America, where it can now be found from Nova Scotia to British Columbia and California.[11]


The specific epithet echioides comes from the resemblance of the leaves of this species to those of Echium vulgare.[12] The suffix -oides means "-like".[13]


  1. ^ "Picris echioides L." Calflora: information on California plants for education, research and conservation. The Calflora Database.
  2. ^ "Picris echioides". Integrated Taxonomic Information System.
  3. ^ a b "Picris echioides (Compositae / Asteraceae) — bristly oxtongue". Flora of Northern Ireland. National Museums and Galleries of Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland Environment Agency. Retrieved 2009-03-01.
  4. ^ BSBI List 2007 (xls). Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 2015-06-26. Retrieved 2014-10-17.
  5. ^ "Prickly Oxtongue". British Wild Flower Plants. Retrieved 2 October 2021.
  6. ^ M. A. Fischer; W. Adler; K. Oswald (2005). Exkursionsflora für Österreich, Liechtenstein und Südtirol. 2nd ed (in German). Biologiezentrum der Oberösterreichischen Landesmuseen.
  7. ^ A. R. Clapham; T. G. Tutin; E. F. Warburg (1981). Excursion Flora of the British Isles. 3rd edition. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-23290-2.
  8. ^ Rosabelle Samuel; Walter Gutermann; Tod F. Stuessy; Claudette F. Ruas; Hans-Walter Lack; Karin Tremetsberger; Salvador Talavera; Barbara Hermanowski; Friedrich Ehrendorfer (2006). "Molecular phylogenetics reveals Leontodon (Asteraceae, Lactuceae) to be diphyletic". American Journal of Botany. 93 (8): 1193–1205. doi:10.3732/ajb.93.8.1193. PMID 21642184.
  9. ^ David Broughton (2008). "Huntingdonshire Newsletter" (PDF). Botanical Society of the British Isles.
  10. ^ C. D. Preston; D. A. Pearman; T. D. Dines (2002). New Atlas of the British and Irish Flora. Oxford University Press. p. 928. ISBN 0-19-851067-5.
  11. ^ "Picris echioides L., bristly oxtongue". PLANTS Database. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2009-03-01.
  12. ^ H. Genaust (2005). Etymologisches Wörterbuch der botanischen Pflanzennamen (in German). Nikol-Verlag. ISBN 3-937872-16-7.
  13. ^ Wright, Charles Henry; Dewar, Daniel (1894). Johnson's Gardener's Dictionary. G. Bell. p. 1066. -oides, -like