Monday, August 12, 2013


"Ride wanted. Destination: anywhere. Your yard would be a good spot. Take me home, please?"

Common (too common) or greater burdock. Arctium lappa.

This plant is growing by the lane to the beach in Crescent Beach, reaching out to passers-by. The hooked head contains the seeds for the next generation. It can grow up to 9 feet high, and in a fertile garden will take over the entire area, where it will stay in spite of all your efforts to eradicate it.

Take a look at those hooks!

Tough, sharp, and extremely persistent.

It has its uses; the root is edible, and goes by the name of gobo. Like its relative, the cardoon, it has purple, thistle-like flowers; the young stems taste like artichoke.

And what would modern life be without Velcro?

After taking his dog for a walk one day in the early 1940s, George de Mestral, a Swiss inventor, became curious about the seeds of the burdock plant that had attached themselves to his clothes and to the dog's fur. Under a microscope, he looked closely at the hook system that the seeds use to hitchhike on passing animals aiding seed dispersal, and he realised that the same approach could be used to join other things together. The result of his studies was Velcro. (Wikipedia)

But don't give it that ride!


  1. Ah, it is that time of year again...
    I love the macro - I have never gotten so close!!!

  2. The root isn't just edible, it's the most delicious of all root vegetables - and goes so deep that one usually can't dig up very much of its total volume. Do you have Actium minus? Here in Ontario A. lappa is the less common species, and we use "Common" as the English name of A. minus.

  3. Wow, that is ONE FINE FACTOID. This biologist is now STOKED. Thanks. =)

  4. Fred, I don't think we have the smaller burdock. More's the pity.

    Up north, our horse paddock was plagued with humongous burdocks. We put a goat in there to eat it, and she absolutely refused. She ate everything else, leaving the burdock to turn into a burry forest.

    It never occurred to me then, to use them as people food.


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