Horticulture Heading

 

Book cover - Common Weeds of New ZealandAn Illustrated Guide to
Common Weeds
of New Zealand

 

Arctium minus
burdock

Family ASTERACEAE

Reproduced from
Common Weeds of New Zealand
by Ian Popay, Paul Champion & Trevor James
ISBN 0 473 09760 5
by kind permission of the
New Zealand Plant Protection Society

Publication or other use of images or descriptive text on these pages is unauthorised unless written permission is obtained from the authors and publisher.
Appropriate acknowledgement of the publication Common Weeds of New Zealand must always be given.

Available from Touchwood Books

Arctium minus - burdock

Upright, open-branched, shrubby perennial up to 1.5 m tall with large leaves and a large, egg-shaped flower head surrounded by hooks that cling to clothes or wool.

  • Flowers Flower head thistle-like, reddish-purple, egg-shaped, up to 2 x 3 cm. The bracts surrounding the flower head carry hooks that cling to clothes and wool. Flowers Jan-Apr.
  • Fruit The 5-7 mm long achenes (seeds), with pappus ('thistle-down') up to 3.5 mm long, remain in the bur-like seed heads until they are caught on animals or clothing.
  • Leaves Hollow-stalked, triangular basal leaves up to 40 cm long by 30 cm wide. Green and sparsely hairy on the upper surface, white and densely downy underneath. Base of leaves heart-shaped.
  • Stems Sparsely to densely hairy, rarely hairless or mealy, grooved.

Habitat

Forest margins, scrub, creek beds, pasture, sheep-yards, gardens and waste places.

Distribution

Occasional throughout NI and SI except for Westland. Originally from Europe and west Asia.

Comments

Young, cooked flowering stems can be used as a vegetable, and the small green shoots of young plants can be eaten. Burdock root has a reputation as a general herbal remedy. Subject to Pest Plant Management Strategies in several regions of NZ. Details are available from individual regional councils or unitary authorities.

Related and similar species

Arctium lappa, with larger, longer-stalked flowers and solid stalked lower leaves, occurs in similar habitats, restricted to Morrinsville in the Waikato and found in scattered sites in Canterbury and Otago. In Japan, the roots are used as a vegetable (gobo). Winter heliotrope (Petasites fragrans) has large basal leaves, but these are kidney-shaped, and its flower heads are similar to burdock but do not form burs. It occurs in waste places, along stream-sides and under trees, usually in wet areas, mostly in southern SI, but also in Palmerston North and Auckland.

Derivation of botanical name

Arctium (Gr.) = mullein; minus (Lat.) = smaller.

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Last updated: July 13, 2014