Arctium lappa (Greater burdock). This biennial plant has coarse, prickly, dark green ovate leaves which are cordate at the base and have woolly undersides. The leaf-stalks are often hollow and the self-fertile flowers are purple and held in globes similar to the thistle. The seedheads are prickly and covered in tiny hooks which detach when ripe, sticking to fur and feathers and were the inspiration for the invention of Velcro.
Biennial, Deciduous, Vegetable or Herbaceous
Other common names
Burdock, Great burdock, bardane, beggar's buttons, clot-bur, cockle buttons, cuckold-dock, fox's clote, greater burdock, happy major, hardock, hurrburr, lappa, love leaves, stick-buttons, thorny burr
Interest and use
The plant is used in traditional herbal medicine in Europe and China for many ailments.
The peeled roots are used as a vegetable in Asia and the young leaves are also eaten in Japan. In the UK, Dandelion and Burdock is a popular soft drink, made from the roots mixed with treacle, sugar and lemon. In the UK in the Middle Ages, Burdock was used as a bittering agent, akin to hops, when making beer, and was also one of the ingredients in hedgerow mead.
The magical use of the Burdock plant in Anatolia was to ward off the evil eye and it also symbolises abundance because of its many seeds.
The flowers are very attractive to bees and butterflies and the plant is useful as bee fodder because it has a long flowering period.