Arctium minus Bernh

Common Burdock

Names and Myths

Arctium Grk arction, a bear, from the rough involucre.

minus smaller


July to October, purplish red flowers. A biennial that produces large basal leaves up to 20 inches long the first year and a bushy 3-8 foot flower stalk the second year.34, 55 Roadsides and waste places.

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Natural history / Folklore

Introduced from Europe, first reported in New England in 1638, arrived in Ontario by 1860.45  Burdock is a biennial, and sends up rhubarblike leaves the first year and a flowering shrub like plant the second. They can produce 300,000 to 400,000 seeds at the end of the second year.

The flower heads dry to form a burr which sticks to animal fur and is a key agent for seed dispersal.17

Young leaves stalks and first year roots can be eaten.34,57 The root has been used as a diuretic, and a diaphoretic (promote sweating). The fresh roots are collected during the first year of growth.38 These roots can be boiled and eaten.41 In Japan the roots are harvested as a vegetable.45

Burdock has been used to treat skin conditions, as well as arthritis, lumbago, and gout. Therefore a poultice is often used as an accompanyment to burdock teas. Crushed leaves aid in the relief of both sprains and insect bites.57