Burdock: 2011

burdock flower with bee
Burdock flower.

Think burdock isn’t good for anything but getting caught stuck in your clothes or your pet’s fur and making a mess? Ask this honeybee! I’m always glad to see honeybees coming to the plants in my back yard wildlife habitat.

This burdock is actually growing in my yard, though some might consider it a weed. It’s not a native plant, coming over from Europe, probably stuck on someone’s britches, but our native wildlife readily accepted its flowers and leaves being much like our native thistles, a close relative.

Later, when the seeds mature, the songbirds will be starting out on their long migrations and will fill up on the high energy content of the fresh seeds before they go; migrating birds will stop by and have a snack as well, and the final settlers who will winter over in my yard will get the final seeds. I’ve heard a few stories of small birds being trapped in the burrs when they are dry, but I’ve never seen this in my yard or along any trail, and I’ve seen plenty a happy bird eating seeds and perching on it, since the plant tries to grow taller than anything around it.

Beneficial insects such as spiders will build nests and lay eggs on the plants, and these will hatch in the warm spring sun early next spring as the cycle begins again.

Burdock has a long history as a medicinal plant as well, with the juice from crushed leaves and stems an effective emollient for burns and rashes including sunburn and poison ivy.

But its greatest claim to fame is to be the inspiration for Velcro. You can find that anywhere.

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