Photo courtesy of Mary Ellen (Mel) Harte, bugwood.org
Arctium minus Bernh.
Scientific Name Synonyms:
Lappa minor Hill
Life Span: Biennial
Growth Characteristics: Burdock is a tall, unmistakable plant. It flowers from July until frost, and reproduces by seed. The barbed flowers and seeds will attach to almost anything.
Flowers: Flower heads are purple, stalked, ½ - 1 inch thick, numerous, and occur at the ends of branches and axils of upper leaves. The tubular florets are surround by bracts and hooked spines making the seed head into a bur.
Fruits/Seeds: The seed are 5-6 mm long and 2.5 mm wide, grayish-brown, wedge-shaped, and curved on one or both sides. Seed dissemination is facilitated by the weeds bur-like head.
Leaves: The leaves form a basal rosette the first year. When mature, the leaves are alternate, triangular in shape, petiolate, and dark green. The leaves are very large, with the lower ones frequently measuring 18 inches in length. The leaf margins are coarsely and shallowly toothed.
Stems: Erect, 3-7 feet tall, coarse, branched, and thick. They can be green to reddish-purple.
Roots: A large fleshy taproot. When dry this root is much wrinkled lengthwise.
Often found along or around roadsides, ditches, waste areas, creek beds, pastures, and low-lying areas.
Soils: Prefers moist, fertile soils, but will grow in a variety of soils.
Associated Species: widespread
Uses and Management:
Burdock can reduce the value of wool due to the seed heads entangling in it.
The root of common burdock is edible raw or cooked. The best roots are obtained from young plants. They are usually peeled and sliced. The roasted root is a coffee substitute as well. Young leaves and leaf stems are edible raw or cooked, and have been used as a potherb. They are mucilaginous. It is best to remove the rind from the stem.
Burdock is on of the foremost detoxifying herbs in both Chinese and Western herbal medicine. It is used to treat conditions cause by and ‘overload’ of toxins, such as throat and other infections, boils, rashes, and other skin problems.
A fiber is obtained from the inner bark and is used to make paper.