Burdock … more than just nature’s velcro

Time to enjoy the emerging flowers of Burdock after they have been two years in the making as Burdock is a biennial, meaning it takes two years before it flowers.

We have four species of Burdock (Arctium sp.) in the UK. If you have a solid stem (called a petiole) just below the leaves, you will have Arctium lappa. If the round flower head looks nearly all purple, and the leaf stem is hollow, you will have Arctium minus (more common in Scotland).

There are some great folk names for Burdock such as Bachelor’s buttons, Beggars buttons, Love leaves, Sticky bobs, Velcro plant. If you are familiar with this plant, you appreciate how this plant got these names as the flower heads have hooks that stick to passers-by, be that those in jeans or with fur and claw!

Love leaves? – if you have a look at the large dark green leaves you will see the lobes at the bottom of the leaf that makes it look like a large love heart.

This plant has been used since antiquity as a medicinal plant and is often known as the bitter and cooling traditional drink – ‘Dandelion and Burdock’.
In Scotland there is a fabulous ritual going back 800 years called the Burry Man parade where a man is covered in the sticky burrs and walks through the village, town or city, for the whole day, being given drams of whisky. It is believed this ritual was possibly to carry away evil spirits.
In Buckie Moray, the ritual was believed to bring better luck to the fishing men.

You can see a picture of a Burry Man here:

Anyone think they could handle this? I don’t think I could but hats off to those that do! 💪

Jennie Martin Ethnobotany Burdock

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