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Arctium lappa


This plant has wavy-edged, arrow-shaped leaves and flower heads in burrlike clusters. It grows up to 2 meters tall, with purple or pink flowers and a large, fleshy root. The seed pods or "burrs" will easily attach themselves to most fabrics.

Habitat and Distribution

Burdock is found worldwide in the North Temperate Zone. Look for it in open waste areas during the spring and summer.

Edible Parts

Peel the tender leaf stalks and eat them raw or cook them like greens. The roots are also edible boiled or baked.


Do not confuse burdock with rhubarb, which has poisonous leaves.

Other Uses

A liquid made from the roots will help to produce sweating and increase urination. Dry the root, simmer it in water, strain the liquid, and then drink the strained liquid. Use the fiber from the dried stalk to weave cordage.

Steve's notes:

Burdock has long been eaten as a springtime blood-cleansing food. It is vitamin and iron-rich.

The leaves can be eaten in the spring, when young, but they are tough, and may need boiling through two changes of water to soften them up and reduce the bitterness.

Historically, some Indian tribes dried the roots for use in winter stews. They also roasted and ground the roots to use as a coffee substitute.

The burrs, which are the inspiration for Velcro, can be used to pin together two sides of a jacket (or a blanket being used as a robe), This is something to keep in mind if you break a zipper or lose your buttons. I have used the sturdier burs as a convenient way to make my gloves stick to my hat when I need my hands free quickly.


The Ultralight Backpacking Site | Burdock