Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.

Burdock - Arctium Sp.

Allergen, Irritant Root, Young Plant, Seeds Hair, Paper, Potash Skin Diseases, Detoxifier

Arctium lappa

Arctium lappa

Arctium lappa

Stem: 1-several, branched distally.
Leaf: basal and cauline, alternate, long-petioled, widely ovate; base deeply cordate; margin entire or toothed; gradually reduced distally on stem.
Inflorescence: heads discoid, in leafy-bracted clusters; involucre +/- spheric; phyllaries graduated in many series, ± linear, bases appressed, tips stiffly radiating, hooked-spiny; receptacle +/- flat, epaleate, bristly.
Flower: many; corolla pink to +/- purple, lobes narrowly triangular; anther base tailed, tips ovate, acute to obtuse; style branched just above distal hairy ring, branches oblong, obtuse.
Fruit: +/- compressed, rough or ribbed, glabrous, attachment basal; pappus several series of rough bristles, readily deciduous.
10 species: Eurasia, northern Africa. (Greek: bear) [Keil 2006 FNANM 19:168-171] [Jepson]

1. Heads generally 25-40 mm diam, generally long-peduncled in +/- rounded or flat-topped clusters; inner phyllaries generally green, margins minutely hairy; pappus 2–6 mm ..... Arctium lappa
1' Heads generally 10-25 mm diam, sessile to short-peduncled in raceme- or panicle-like clusters; inner phyllaries generally purple-tinged, margins minutely serrate; pappus +/- 2 mm .....Arctium minus [Jepson]

Local Species;

  1. Arctium lappa - Great Burdock [PCBC][E-flora]
  2. Arctium minus - Common Burdock [PCBC][TSFTK][E-flora]

Arctium lappa - Great Burdock

"Arctium lappa is a BIENNIAL growing to 2 m (6ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 3 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Jul to September, and the seeds ripen from Sep to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, lepidoptera, self.The plant is self-fertile.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil." [PFAF-1]

Arctium minus - Common Burdock

Uses of Arctium sp.

Species Mentioned:

A. minus, A lappa. [Wild][Nyerges] A. minus. A lappa is used in the same way [Harrington] A. minus. [PCBC]


A. minus; Although no reports of toxicity have been seen for this plant, some caution is advised due to the following reports for the closely related A. lappa[K]. [PFAF]


Edible Uses

Other Uses

Medicinal Uses

A. minus, A.lappa; Burdock is one of the foremost detoxifying herbs in both Chinese and Western herbal medicine[254]. [PFAF]

Global Use

In Russia, the roots are used as potato substitutes when potatoes aren't available. [Nyerges]
The Iroquois dried the roots of the first-year plants and used them in soup. They also cooked the large leaves as greens. [Nyerges]




Lignans have a variety of biological activities. The seeds of A. lappa contain several lignans including arctigenin and the associated 4 - glucoside, arctiin along with smaller concentrations of matairesinol, secoisolariciresinol, and neoarctin B. 3 The concentrations of these lignans varies between different plant parts. In a study of the stereochemistry of lignan biosynthesis in Arctium lappa , the seeds contained significant amounts of matairesinol and arctigenin compared with secoisolariciresinol, whereas the petioles contained only small amounts of secoisolariciresinol and no detectable concentrations of matairesinol and arctigenin. 4 [TNS]

Nutritional Information

Nutritional Information: Burdock root is very nutritious, providing vitamin C, biotin, vitamins B1, B6, B12, vitamin E, potassium, sulfur, silica, and manganese. It provides inulin, a helpful sugar for diabetes and hypoglycemics (sufferers from low blood sugar) because it doesn't elicit rapid insulin production. [Wild]

A lappa; The root contains about 2.5% protein, 0.14% fat, 14.5% carbohydrate, 1.17% ash[179]. The root contains about 45% inulin[240]. Inulin is a starch that cannot be digested by the human body, and thus passes straight through the digestive system. In some people this starch will cause fermentation in the gut, resulting in wind[K]. Inulin can be converted into a sweetener that is suitable for diabetics to eat[K]. [PFAF]

Greater Burdock - Arctium lappa [Turner, Kuhnlein]

Part:StalksPer 100 g fresh weight
Food Energy (Kcal)89Ash (g)1Potassium (mg)180
Water (g)-Thiamine (mg)0.25Magnesium (mg)-
Protein (g)2.5Riboflavin (mg)0.03Calcium (mg)50
Fat (g)0.1Niacin (mg)<0.1Phosphorus (mg)58
Carbohydrate (g)-Vitamin C (mg)2Sodium (mg)30
Crude Fiber (g)-Vitamin A (RE)-Iron (mg)1.2

[Turner, Kuhnlein]

Part:LeavesPer 100 g fresh weight
Food Energy (Kcal)-Ash (g)8.8Potassium (mg)-
Water (g)-Thiamine (mg)0.25Magnesium (mg)-
Protein (g)3.5Riboflavin (mg)0.03Calcium (mg)-
Fat (g)1.8Niacin (mg)-Phosphorus (mg)-


Part:RootsPer 100 g fresh weight *Per 100g dry weight
Food Energy (Kcal)72Ash (g)0.9Potassium (mg)*308
Water (g)80Thiamine (mg)0.01Magnesium (mg)*38
Protein (g)1.5Riboflavin (mg)0.03Calcium (mg)*41
Fat (g)0.2Niacin (mg)0.3Phosphorus (mg)*51
Carbohydrate (g)33.4Vitamin C (mg)3Sodium (mg)*5
Crude Fiber (g)1.9Vitamin A (RE)0Iron (mg)-

[Turner, Kuhnlein]


A. lappa; "Succeeds in most soils when grown in partial shade[200]. Prefers a moist neutral to alkaline soil[238] and a sunny position in a heavy soil[22]. Plants are best grown in a light well-drained soil if the roots are required for culinary use[200, 206]. Tolerates a pH in the range 4.6 to 7.8. The top growth dies back at temperatures a little above freezing, but the roots tolerate much lower temperatures[206] and can be left in the ground all winter to be harvested as required. Burdock is cultivated for its edible root in Japan, there are some named varieties[183]. Spring-sown seed produces edible roots in late summer and autumn, whilst autumn sown crops mature in the following spring or early summer[206]. Although the plants are quite large, it is best to grow them fairly close together (about 15cm apart, or in rows 30cm apart with the plants 5 - 8cm apart in the rows) since this encourages the development of long straight roots[206]. The seed head has little hooked prickles and these attach themselves to the hairs or clothing of passing creatures and can thus be carried for some considerable distance from the parent plant[4]. The plants usually self-sow freely[238]. The flowers are very attractive to bees and butterflies[206]." [PFAF]


A. lappa; "Seed - best sown in situ in the autumn[200]. The seed can also be sown in spring[206]. Germination can be erratic, it is best to sow the seed in trays and plant out the young plants before the tap-root develops[206]. Seed requires a minimum temperature of 10oc, but a temperature of 20 - 25oc is optimum[206]. Germination rates can be improved by pre-soaking the seed for 12 hours or by scarification[206]. They germinate best in the light[206]. The autumn sowing should be made as late as possible because any plants with roots more than 3mm in diameter in the spring will quickly run to seed if cold temperatures are followed by daylengths longer than 12 1/2 hours[206]." [PFAF]


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