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


Arctium minus


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.

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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.


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


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


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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Web-notes: Weed Links

On this site

Reproduced from Common Weeds of New Zealand:

External Links

WeedbustersWeedbusters New Zealand
Weedbusters is a weeds awareness and education programme that aims to protect New Zealand's environment from the increasing weed problem.
A free tool to assist farmers and agricultural professionals in decision-making regarding weed and pest identification, biology, impact and management.
Weed keyNew Zealand Weeds Key
An interactive identification key to the weeds of New Zealand. Developed at Landcare Research.

New Zealand Plant Conservation Network naturalised plants
Search for information on more than 2500 naturalised and weedy plants.
NZ Plant Protection SocietyNew Zealand Plant Protection Society
Their main objective: "To pool and exchange information on the biology of weeds, invertebrate and vertebrate pests, pathogens and beneficial organisms and methods for modifying their effects."
Massey UniversityMassey University Weeds Database
A site providing information about New Zealand weeds and weed control. It has a series of pages showing pictures of New Zealand weeds, notes on identification and control. It also provides information on a university paper entitled Controlling Weeds.

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Last updated: March 1, 2021