Widespread. Asia, Africa, North, South and Central America, Caribbean, Europe, Oceania. In most Pacific islands.
Annual weed of crops, plantations, forests, pastures, waterways, gardens, parks, roadsides, waste lands, coastal and other disturbed sites. Produces large amounts viable, long-lasting, easily-dispersed seed, grows in range of habitats, developing dense populations, out-competing crop plants and native species. Alternative host for viruses (Tomato spotted wilt virus), nematodes (Meloidogyne, Rotylenchus and leaf miners (Liriomyza).
Slender, erect, branching, up to 90 cm tall. Stems, square, hairless, green to purple. Leaves, opposite along stems, toothed margins, single at base, compound above (three leaflets). Flowerheads in clusters at end of branches, 7-8 mm across, yellow flowers in centre. Some with surrounding white petals-like structures. Fruits black, flattened with hookedbristles. Strong tap root.
Spread: seed; clothing; water; contaminant of rice seed; vehicles.
Biosecurity: high risk of introduction; contaminant of seed, clothing. One of the worst weeds in New Caledonia and Guam. On Global Invasive Species Database of alien invasive species (IUCN, 2020).