Arctium minus (Common Burdock)

Plant Info
Also known as: Lesser Burdock
Genus:Arctium
Family:Asteraceae (Aster)
Life cycle:biennial
Origin:Europe
Status:
  • Invasive - ERADICATE!
Habitat:shade, sun; fields, ditches, open woods, woodland edges, waste areas
Bloom season:July - September
Plant height:2 to 5 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: indistinct Cluster type: panicle

[photo of flowers] One to several short-stalked or stalkless thistle-like flower heads clustered at the tips of branches and arising from the leaf axils. Flowers are ½ to ¾ inch wide, light lavendar to deep violet or rarely white, with dark purple-tipped stamens surrounding a white style and extending above the disk flowers. Surrounding the flower is a dense, round array of softly spiny bracts with tiny hooks at the tips.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of lower leaves] Leaves are alternate, coarse and densely hairy. Basal leaves are broadly heart-shaped with rounded tips, have long hollow stalks, wavy edges, are up to 2 feet long and over a foot wide, becoming smaller, stalkless and less wavy up into the flower clusters. Stems are stout but brittle and green or reddish purple, hairless to sparsely hairy.

Fruit: Fruit type: barbed Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a head of light brown seeds with a few short bristly hairs attached. The bracts dry to brown and become stiff, the hooks attaching the seed head to clothing, animal fur, and anything that passes by, spreading seed far and wide.

Notes:

Burdock is a tenacious weed with a massive taproot that does not respond well to herbicide control, plus it has a persistent seed bank. The hooked fruits are reputed to be the inspiration for Velcro. The leaves are similar in size and shape to rhubarb, causing more than a few people to refer to it as wild rhubarb. It is very likely in every Minnesota county, though it has not been recorded in several counties.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka and Ramsey counties.

Comments

Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Lynnette - SE Dakota County, Ravenna Township
on: 2011-08-22 15:03:52

I like t o dig first year roots and make tinctures with burdock. The first year roots are healthy for us, and it is a great way to control the huge wild plant.

Posted by: ML - Minneapolis
on: 2013-05-25 19:40:41

What is the best way to eradicate this scourge? Seven years ago, a neighbor dumped a bunch of weed waste on our property (grrr-bad enough...) including some mature burdock stalks. The next year I saw what looked like rhubarb coming up, but didn't think anything of it. Then the next year...it took over. We've been battling it ever since, esp on the back lot by our alley. Any tips for getting rid of it once and for all?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2013-05-26 07:43:42

ML, burdock is a biennial and you probably have a massive seed bank to contend with, so treatments like roundup won't get you far. The trick is to prevent any more seed from forming. Pull what you can, cut back plants when they bud, and behead flowering plants before they go to seed. Don't just uproot or cut flowering plants at ground level, as there will be sufficient energy stored in the plant to continue producing seed. I usually pull the flowers off to prevent that, then cut them off or uproot. Persistence is required. Good luck.

Posted by: BW - Otsego
on: 2013-08-17 21:11:30

Saw this in Maria State Park. Didn't know what it was at the time. Should have I pulled/destroyed it? What are the ethics of this on state land? I know what I will do but some people are funny (officials) and that would be all I need...

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2013-08-18 05:05:20

Technically, you need a special permit from the DNR to do anything with plants (even weed pulling) in state parks or other state lands. Some state parks have volunteer programs that you might join to participate in "approved" weed pulling. You can ask a park naturalist or manager for more info.

Posted by: Katie - Sauk Centre
on: 2014-07-08 16:50:35

We have 3 acres of woods on our 5 acres of land. The burdock and loco weed (fireweed) have overtaken the entire area and now they are both spreading out into my yard and my gardens. I don't know what to do. I've tried pulling, cutting, weed control products but I've gotten no where in 8yrs. The problem is just getting worse. My father in law had to chemically burn them off of his property, however, what he used I'm not comfortable with since I don't want it getting into my, or my neighbors, well water. (he used a gasoline mixture). Any suggestions? Thanks!

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2014-07-08 19:01:50

Katie, burdock is a biennial and produces copious amounts of seed so you have a large seed bank to contend with. Preventing plants from producing more seed is crucial. If you can do that then eventually what's already in the seed bank will be depleted. I don't know how long burdock seeds are viable but it can take many years. I've been managing a population of garlic mustard (also biennial) this way, uprooting plants when budding, removing flower heads so they can't bear seed, and bagging developing fruit then burning it or tossing in the trash. 8 years now and counting, but I am making a dent.

Posted by: JM - Arden Hills
on: 2014-08-02 10:30:37

Seen around the southern parking lots on the Arden Hills campus of Boston Scientific, just outside the landscaped area. On private property, so I was reluctant to do anything, but it's clearly taking hold in several spots.

Posted by: chetyl - elm creek park
on: 2015-05-08 23:00:23

Starting to come up on the intermediate mountain bike trail at elm creek regional park

Posted by: Chelsey - lindstrom
on: 2015-07-17 23:29:38

My garden use to be overrun with burdock. I just kept pulling all the leaves off when ever they grew and threw them in the compost. After 3yrs there roots just died and I could pull them straight out the ground. One was over a foot. I have a couple that are now growing but the plant is not so intimidating any more. Now Canadian thistle is my problem plant. Also have bitter nightshade, and raspberries.

There's also a weird vine with 5-6 leaves large on the end of each stem, its taking over everything behind the fence, climbing over the smaller trees and is starting up the box elder tree. Defeat one another takes its place :(

Posted by: Anne - Kanabec County, 7 miles east of Mora
on: 2015-07-19 18:32:46

I have one plant that has grown for about 3 years. This is the first year it is blooming. The plant is over 6 feet tall. It's much bigger this year than in the past.

Posted by: mike m - north central
on: 2016-03-25 00:52:56

If your property is of a size where you can't remove this plant by hand yet the land is good habitat for burdock you will NEVER get rid of it short of agent orange ... (that's a joke folks!) However, you do have a chance at a measure of success if you can change the surrounding flora that competes with it for light, water and nutrienhe. Remember that animals do spread the seeds very efficiently wherever they tread and this, of course, includes small rodents so fencing is of minimal effect. Better to do what you can by chopping out the flowering plants below ground with a sharpened spade shovel before the purple shows, then change the way you think about burdock.

Posted by: anke - MN zoo. and in my yard
on: 2016-07-29 22:29:36

sited at the MN ZOO and my yard woodland Rd and Plateu in Lakeville I will destroy mine but it also says online it attracts bees and insects. so that's a good thing right?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2016-07-30 06:14:34

Anki, why not replace it with a native plant that does the same thing, like a native thistle or a milkweed?

Posted by: Leah B - West Medicine Lake Park, Plymouth
on: 2017-06-27 21:07:20

This plant grows beside and in the middle of one of my favorite walking trails, making it nearly impassable during certain times of the year :( (The trails are across the road from the west side of Medicine Lake).

Posted by: Judi P - St. Paul
on: 2017-07-10 00:22:17

Will green burrs just forming continue to set seed after chopping stalk? No purple yet. Can I chop and drop?

Posted by: Jeanne F - St Paul, on W 7th betwn Snelling and St.P Ave and up Davern
on: 2017-08-01 09:02:06

This is a terrible weed. People think it is harmless in its first year, then it explodes in its 2nd year and takes over. City of StP has given up its roadside management abd it is moving up the hill from West &th up into Highland at an alarming rate. Deer and animals track it everywhere. We need a public info campaign and City NEEDS TO handle its roadsides. They own McDonough Park and it is growing all over.

Posted by: LJ10 - Burnsville
on: 2018-04-06 21:37:01

One day last summer, I got a bunch of these stuck to me while mowing. Feeling curious, I decided to examine one of the burrs a little closer. I dug into one with a fingernail and broke it apart, and A VERY SMALL WORM came out of the center. Is that normal or just a strange, gross fluke? It's bugged me (no pun intended) ever since. I really would like to know the answer. Thanks in advance! :)

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2018-04-08 21:00:38

LJ10, insects, both larva and adults, eat seeds. What you saw was probably a generalist insect, not a specialist, so it might eat seeds of many different plants including burdock.

Posted by: Angie - Eden Prairie
on: 2018-05-18 15:54:55

The path by the Home Depot is being slowly overtaken by burdock and a couple other invasives. I'm sad about this city park area because I can see the natives being crowded out little by little.

Posted by: Rita - Maplewood, Beaver Lake area
on: 2018-07-13 23:14:09

We are on a mission in my neighborhood. I cut the second year growth below the bottom leaves....hopely before they turn purple. Especially before they ripen. I take out dead stalks with burs remaiming on them.l monitor areas where l have chopped and if l find regrowth, l cut it again. If you look closely, at the point where each leave comes off of the main stalk, an offshoot will appear....yup....each leaf. That's why you need to cut below ALL of the leaves.

On the 1st year growth, a mix of 1 gallon of vinegar, 1 pound of salt and some Dawn dish soap (for stickiness) in a hand sprayer, sprayed only on the leaves, will brown them out, wilt them and make them disappear. I do not know what the longterm consequences of using this mixture are. I do know that Burdock....1st year, 2nd year, it all hates it. I take my dog for a walk and take a bottle with me. It becomes an obsession. Good luck.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2018-07-14 04:25:12

Rita, even though you may only spray the leaves, salt will contaminate the soil, killing both good and bad plants as well as organisms that live in the soil, and should not be used unless you don't care if nothing grows back in that spot.

Posted by: kristin driessen - Lake Shore
on: 2018-09-11 12:57:37

This grows in my yard and many other places in the area. Very difficult to eradicate. At minimum please clip the flowers off before turning to the "velcro balls". Hummingbirds and bats have gotten caught on this causing their death.

Posted by: Rita - Maplewood
on: 2019-07-15 22:44:37

We seem to be getting ahead of the burdock. Still chopping second year growth below the bottom leaves. New spray mix is helping. The salt/vinegar mix, with much less salt is working. There is only one area that doesn't have new...and different, plants growing yet. This is the 4th year of ridding my little part of the planet of burdock. I'm thinking that 2 more years of constant diligence and we will be....temporarily...rid of this deceptively pretty planet.... ....Heaven help me, I've been chopping flowers off of thistle. It seems that where there's burdock, there's thistle.

Posted by: Tracy Sutorus - Scott county
on: 2020-08-11 16:57:01

My husband says I'm crazy, but I think this "weed" is pretty, I mean grass is considered a weed right? I see it near the credit river and always wondered what is was. My mom had one pop up near her walk way. I thought about planting some seeds in a planter or to cover my fence. But now a little scared to.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2020-08-12 06:10:55

Tracy, consider any plant growing where it is not wanted as a weed. In any case, you really don't want to cultivate this because you'll never be able to contain it. The fruits can travel far and wide not only through your own and neighbors' yards, but also to new locations by birds, squirrels or other wildlife, and any dogs that are unlucky enough to get the barbed fruits stuck in their fur. Don't encourage it.

Posted by: Jason Husveth - Marine On St. Croix
on: 2021-03-04 11:25:20

I use a cordless (battery powered) Sawzall with a 10 inch demolition blade (for cutting through wall studs and nails) and stick this blade right in the ground, pull the trigger and cut the root in one second'S time. Pull the whole root and rosette and flower shoot out of the ground and compost it. If I get enough of the root, the plant will not come back. Minimal disturbance to the ground, no wear on the demolition blade, and no herbicide. Do this for two or three seasons along with Rx burning and the problem is solved or very under control.

Posted by: Jillian Fejszes - Marshall County
on: 2021-06-01 16:56:20

Saw very large burdock plants near Red River in Marshall County.

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