Arctium lappa

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Arctium lappa
Barbed tips of A. lappa
A. lappa in Autumn

Taxonomy and Systematics

Kingdom: Plantae

Division: Angiosperms

Class: Eudicots

Order: Asterales

Family: Asteraceae

Genus: Arctium

Species: Arctium lappa

Descriptive notes

Arctium lappa, or Greater Burdock, is a tall prickly biennial herb that can reach up to 2 meters in height. It has large, alternating leaves that have a long petiole, are toothed, oval, and tomentose underneath. Heads are in a corymbose inflorescence with imbricated bracts that are spine tipped and have a hooked apex. The inflorescence is comprised of purple flowers, perfect in nature, with long slender lobes. The achenes are long and flat with a pappus of short barbed bristles. The Greater Burdock appears mid-summer, lasting until about September. Because the heads are surrounded by an involucre made out of many barbed bracts (each curves to form a perfect hook), they are easily carried long distances on the fur of animals.

Campus distribution and habitat

This Burdock can be found along the wall of the secret garden, continuing alongside the path through the woods to North Bennington until the road picks up again. Arctium lappa prefers growing in fields, on roadsides, and in waste places.

General distribution

A. lappa was first naturalized from Europe, and is usually found in disrupted areas with soil rich in nitrogen. The Burdock prefers freshly worked soil and grows best in full sunlight. It is very commonly cultivated in Japan¬ where propogation is achieved through the direct sowing of Burdock seeds in July. Three to four months after seeding the crop is harvested and the roots are eaten. If harvested too late, however, the roots are too fibrous to eat.

Other notes

Although Burdock is often mistakenly considered a weed, it is in fact used as a delicious root vegetable and an herbal medicine. The benefits of using Arctium lappa as an herbal supplement are great: not only can it be used as a blood purifier and diuretic, but it also supports the health of the liver, kidneys, and bladder. The root of Arctium lappa makes up the largest portion of the original four herb Essiac Tea formula, a well known medicinal “miracle” tea. The root of A. lappa is generally cooked or baked before eating. It is also sometimes mixed with dandelion in teas and other drinks (beer and a British soft drink). Young leaves from the plant can be cooked and eaten as well.


  • Magee, Dennis W. & Ahles, Harry E. Flora of the Northeast: A Manual of the Vascular FLora of New England and Adjacent New York. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2007.
  • Newcomb, Lawrence. Newcomb's Wildflower Guide: An Ingenious New Key System for Quick, Positive Field Identification of the Wildflowers, Flowering Shrubs and Vines of Northeastern and North Central North America. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company 1977.
  • USDA, NRCS. 2010. The PLANTS Database ( National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.