Fizzy drinks and hook and loop fastners

29th January 2013

Lesser Burdock Arctium minus

These spiky, round, brown balls are the seed heads or burs of last year’s Lesser Burdock Arctium minus and yet again this is a good pointer of where to start looking later in the spring for the new plants coming through.

This common biennial is one of two Burdock species that grow in the UK the other being Greater Burdock Arctium lappa (other species are sometimes described but are not universally accepted and are possibly hybrids) and it was the roots of these which mixed with Dandelion, flavoured the well known soft beverage “Dandelion and Burdock”. We will no doubt return to this plant later in the year, when the new growth has had a chance to develop.

Meanwhile, did you know those burs are responsible for Velcro? Apparently after returning from a hunting trip with his dogs, Swiss engineer Georges de Mestral examined the hooks on the burdock burs stuck to him and his dogs under a microscope “et voila” Velcro was invented.

The plant uses this ability of the seeds to stick to animals and humans to disperse its seeds, but in reality many “don’t fall far from the tree” to coin a phrase and you will likely find many seedlings around the parent plant.

Kev Palmer

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