Cow cockle

From Bugwoodwiki

Cow cockle (Vaccaria hispanica)

Compiled by Hilary Parkinson, Montana State University, Rangeland Invasive Weed Extension Lab, and Marjolein Schat, Cornell University, from the following sources:

Identification and Life Cycle

Cow cockle (Vaccaria hispanica (Mill.) Rauschert) is synonymous with Saponaria vaccaria and Vaccaria pyramidata. It has many common names such as Cow-herb, Spring Cockle, Pink Cockle,and China Cockle. The stems on this plant are erect, to 1 m tall, smooth, and branched with swollen nodes. The leaves are opposite, 2-8 cm long, smooth, sessile, and blue to green in color. The flowers have 5 petals united to form a calyx that is funnel-shaped with five ribs, pale red to deep pink in color and loosely grouped at the ends of stems. The seeds are round, 2 mm in diameter, rough, black, and enclosed in a capsule.


This weed is commonly found in areas with fine textured soils such as cultivated fields, and also in waste places and roadsides.


All plant parts especially the seed contain the toxic substance saponin which is poisonous to livestock.

Biology and Ecology

Cow cockle is an annual weed, reproducing by seeds. These seeds germinate mainly in the spring from late April to late May.

Management Approaches

Biological Control

There is no current biological control available.

Mechanical and Cultural Control

Infested stubble which is to be summer fallowed should be tilled before this time to place the cow cockle seeds in a position to germinate. Cow cockle seeds continue to germinate throughout the summer but in reduced numbers. Tillage should be shallow to allow maximum germination of the seeds. It should be thorough so that all plants are killed at each operation.

Chemical Control

There are reports of some resistant biotypes to synthetic auxins, such as 2, 4-D and MCPA.

Examples of herbicides that can be used to manage cow cockle

Consult herbicide labels for additional rate, application, and safety information. Additional herbicide information can be found at

Herbicide Active Ingredient/ *Trade Name Mode of Action Product per Acre Application Time or Growth Stage
Winter Wheat
Chlorsulfuron, Metsulfuron methyl Group 2 (ALS inhibitors)
*Finesse 0.20 - 0.40 oz/A or 0.20 - 0.50 oz/A Apply the lower rate for preplant and the higher rate for preemergent. In WY, MT, ND, SD, and MN, do not exceed 0.30 oz per acre for preemergence.
Spring Wheat (Except Durum)
Chlorsulfuron, Metsulfuron Methyl Group 2 (ALS inhibitors)
*Finesse 0.20 - 0.40 oz/A For preplant and preemergence. In WY, MT, ND, SD, and MN, do not exceed 0.30 oz per acre for preplant or preemergence.
Durum Wheat
Thifensulfuron methyl, Tribenuron methyl, Metsulfuron methyl Group 2 (ALS inhibitors)
*Ally Extra 0.20-0.40 oz/A Make applications after the crop is tillering but before boot. Applications to durum and wampum varieties should be made in combination with 2,4-D.
Winter, Spring, and Durum Wheat
Bromoxynil and MCPA Group 4 (synthetic auxins) and Group 6 (Photosystem II inhibitors)
*Buctril M 1 L/ha Treat spring wheat from the 2-leaf until the early flag leaf stage. Treat winter wheat from the 2-4 leaf stage in the fall or from the time growth commences to early flag leaf stage in the spring. For best control, treat cow cockle up to 4 leaf stage.
Chlorsulfuron, Metsulfuron methyl Group 2 (ALS inhibitors)
*Finesse 0.20 - 0.30 oz/A Apply in the spring or fall when the majority of weeds have emerged and are actively growing.

The information herein is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and that listing of commercial products, necessary to this guide, implies no endorsement by the authors or the Extension Services of Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming or Montana. Criticism of products or equipment not listed is neither implied nor intended. Due to constantly changing labels, laws and regulations, the Extension Services can assume no liability for the suggested use of chemicals contained herein. Pesticides must be applied legally complying with all label directions and precautions on the pesticide container and any supplemental labeling and rules of state and federal pesticide regulatory agencies. State rules and regulations and special pesticide use allowances may vary from state to state: contact your State Department of Agriculture for the rules, regulations and allowances applicable in your state and locality. Updated Oct 2008