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

Happy New Year!

2020 has been a year that many of us have never seen before and I hope that nature has brought to your door some comfort and joy during such a challenging time. Each day my walks in the woods, or on the beach, have reminded me of how there is so much beauty out there and so many extraordinary ways nature expresses itself that constantly fill me with wonder and awe. From the caring nature of nurses and doctors in our hospitals, to the way a horse chestnut terminal bud opens up to reveal leaves, flowers and new stem all in one tight package, or to read about the novel compounds in a plant that are helping scientist to make a vaccine against Covid 19.

I hope you an find the wild wherever you are over the New Year and wishing you a 2021 where many botanical delights come your way.

I have been spending the current Lockdown in London supporting family and have been posting a video a day on different wonders to look out for on lock down walks I post a few here for you to enjoy.

botanically yours

Jennie x

The generosity of IVY (Hedera helix)

Have you noticed the bee and wasp activity on the late flowering Ivy? I enjoy watching this generous plant feed a variety of insects who feed on it’s calorific rich nectar and pollen, fattening themselves up before they hibernate for winter. Fugivourous (fruit feeding) birds such as song thrush, starlings, fieldfares, wood pigeons etc. also rely on the berries of the Ivy in winter when other food sources are scarce.

According to the RSPB the berry of Ivy contains, weight for weight, as many calories as a Mars Bar! (though the Berries are can be poisonous to humans so don’t try this at home).

For more info these are some great articles on IVY




Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) floral buds

On my daily walks just now I am noticing all the buds on the trees unfolding to reveal their botanical delights inside.

This short vlog highlights the fact that there are no boundaries to botany! The fields of wheat or barley, the wild bluebells or primroses, the pyjama bottoms I wear made from a Gossypium (cotton) species, to broccoli and cabbages in our kitchens, not to mention what is in my medicine cupboard…



Gorse (Ulex europaeus)

The intoxicating coconut smell of Gorse is on it’s way in the north of Scotland! However, one of the things I like most about this plant is it’s clever way of passing it’s pollen from one flower to the other. I explain more in the video below.


Yew Trees and Pollen

Spring has sprung… well the Yew tree thinks so anyway. As one of our three native conifers, this tree doesn’t produce flowers as such, but instead something called strobili (or male cones). At the moment, in the north of Scotland, the male strobili of the Yew are bursting out of their bud scales and producing pollen. Allergy sufferers be aware, the OPALS allergy scale rate the pollen from a Yew Tree at 10 out of 10. Not surprising since this potent and tree, the oldest in Europe, gives us the chemotherapy drug Docetaxel. Local friends if you are visiting Brodie Castle, there have some wonderful Yew trees, so check out the male strobili that are flowering there just now.
More on the Yew, here:
#AncientTrees #Yew #MedicinesFromPlants #Pollen #Conifers #Chemotherapy #Allergies #SacredTrees