BURDOCK (Arctium minus)

This plant, of waste ground and wood-edges, grows to a sturdy 3 feet in height. Its long-stalked large floppy leaves, which may be as much as a foot in length, are roughly heart-shaped. Though the flower-heads are thistle-like, burdock is spineless. The purple flowers appear from July onwards. The hooked bracts close up when in fruit to form the well-known burs, which provide children (and others) with so much amusement, as they adhere to clothing – burdock has recently become known as ‘the Velcro plant’. This accounts for some of its many local names – sticky jacks, touch-me-not, kisses, cuckold buttons, cleavers (a name shared with that other adhesive plant, goose-grass).

The leaves, like those of the butterbur, have been used to wrap butter (and, apparently, as improvised toilet paper!) The young stems, peeled, may be eaten raw or added to salads (they are said to taste like new potatoes, with hints of fennel or cucumber), stir-fried, or boiled and served with butter like asparagus. The stems too were used in the pre-Coke popular home-made fizzy drink Dandelion and Burdock.

Two of the places where Burdock may be seen in the Parish are shown on the map below:

Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service.
Image reproduced by kind permission of Ordnance Survey
and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.

Text by George Metcalfe. Photos by Colin Wootton.