Common burdock

Encyclopedia Article

Common burdock                 Arctium minus (Hill) Bernh.

Family:   Asteraceae (Composite family)
Life cycle:   Biennial
Native status:  Introduced from Europe by early immigrants.
Habitat:  Pastures, disturbed areas with little competition from adjacent plants

General description:   Rosette of large, egg to heart shaped leaves the first year; in second year branched flower stalks elongate up to 4 to 5 ft tall.  Pink to purple flowers surrounded by bracts that dry to form bur, bracts have hooks that attach to clothing and fur.

Key ID traits:  Large, wavy-edged leaves are light-colored, woolly on underside; upper surface is darker and smoother.

Miscellaneous:  Common burdock is often found in fencelines and other areas devoid of permanent vegetation. The burs of common burdock were the inspiration for Velcro.  A swiss inventor tired of pulling burdock burs from his dog’s fur, so he examined them and came up with the idea for Velcro. The roots of young plants are harvested for consumption.

Common burdock seedling.


The large basal rosettes of common burdock smother other annual weeds.

Flowering plants have many branches and reach heights of five feet.

The hooks on the seed burs were the inspiration for Velcro