Arctium minus (Hill) Bernhardi

Remark The words or terms in red (actually dark orange) in the text are defined in a glossary.
jul_26_04n.thmb can't be loaded. Arctium minus is an introduced plant in North America ; it has naturalized, is ecologically invasive and is considered as a coarse, unsightly weed that should be eradicated. Arctium minus is a biennial plant. During the first year it produces only a rosette of large leaves from a long tapering root. In the second year the plant grows to a large size, measuring from 3 to 7 feet in height, producing flowers that appear July until frost. The flowers are purple and are borne in small clustered heads armed with hooked spines, and the spiny burs thus formed are a great pest, attaching themselves to clothing and to the wool and hair of animals. The plant belongs to the Asteraceae family.


The genus name is said to come from the Greek αρκτοσ (arktos), meaning bear in reference to the shaggy burrs, to the rough involucre.

In Latin, minus means minus, less, lesser so that Arctium minus is the lesser, in fruit size dimension, of the species of the Arctium genus.

Common names

Some of the vernacular names of Arctium minus are: Common Burdock, Burdock, Small Burdock, Smaller Burdock, Wild Burdock, Wild Rhubarb, Cockle Button, Cuckold Dock, Beggar's-Buttons, Hurr-burr, Stick-button, Hardock and Bardane. Some of the French vernacular names are: Petite bardane, Amoureux, Artichaut, Bardane, Bardane microcéphale, Bardane mineure, Bourrier, Cibourroche, Crakia, Glouteron, Graquias, Grateau, Grateron, Gratia, Gratte, Gratteron, Herbe aux teigneux, Péterolle, Piquant, Rhubarbe, Rhubarbe crapaud, Rhubarbe du diable, Rhubarde sauvage, Tabac du diable, Teigne and Toque. Such a proliferation of names must be a consequence of the large and abundant distribution of the plant!


Arctium minus has also been known as: draw_a.jpg can't be loaded.


This is an unmistakable species. It is quite conspicuous by its lager size and the width of its leaves, The dense uncinate phyllaries of the involucre are an excellent characteristic for identification, particularly when the fruits are mature. It is quite easy to differentiate from Arctium lappa, for the later, the flower heads have a much longer peduncle and are quite bigger; in Arctium minus, the peduncle is quite short, at time nearly absent. When not in flower nor in fruits, it is anyway always simple to differenctiate Arctium minus from Arctium lappa, the petioles of the former are hollow, those of Arctium lappa are not.

And don't get to close to the plant or don't let your dog go close to it, as the fruiting heads grab onto nearly everything!


Arctium minus is a large weed with flowering stems that may be 1.5 meters tall and with basal and lower leaves may be as large as half a meter in length and nearly as wide. The fruiting stems remain upright throughout the next winter.



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Flower heads



Arctium minus can grow in light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and requires well-drained but moist soil. It can grow as well in the sun as in semi-shade.

Arctium minus grows along roadsides and in fields, pastures, and waste places, disturbed sites, hedgerows, fencerows, shores, thickets, open forests, railway lines.


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All the provinces of Canada. All of the USA but Florida; very abundant in the eastern and central US States and in some scattered localities in the west. Temperate Eurasia. The map shows the Canadian provinces and USA states where the plant can be found.


The root of Arctium minus is edible raw or cooked. The best roots are obtained from young plants. They are usually peeled and sliced. The roasted root is a coffee substitute as well. Young leaves and leaf stems are edible raw or cooked, and have been used as a potherb. They are mucilaginous. It is best to remove the rind from the stem. Young flowering stems are edible, peeled and eaten raw or cooked like asparagus. Seed sprouts are reportedly edible too.

Arctium is one of the foremost detoxifying herbs in both Chinese and Western herbal medicine. Arctium lappa is the main species used, though Arctium minus has similar properties. The dried root of one year old plants is the official herb, but the leaves and fruits can also be used. It is used to treat conditions caused by an 'overload' of toxins, such as throat and other infections. The root is thought to be particularly good at helping to eliminate heavy metals from the body. The plant has agents that are antibacterial, antifungal and that expel gas from the intestines.

It has soothing, mucilaginous properties and is said to be one of the most certain cures for many types of skin diseases, burns, bruises etc. It is used in the treatment of herpes, eczema, acne, impetigo, ringworm, boils, bites etc. The plant can be taken internally as an infusion, or used externally as a wash. It should be used with caution. One-year old roots contain agents that cause gradual beneficial change in the body, act as a mild laxative, blood purifier, increase the flow of bile and its discharge from the body, eliminate toxins and purify the system, especially the blood. The seeds induce perspiration and urine production and aid and improve the action of the stomach. The crushed seed is poulticed onto bruises. The seed is harvested in the summer and dried for later use. The seed contains arctiin, this excites the central nervous system, producing convulsions and increase in respiration, and later paralysis if taken in larger quantities. It also lowers the blood pressure by dilating the blood vessels.

A fiber is obtained from the inner bark and is used to make paper. It is about 0.9 mm long. The stems are harvested in late summer, the leaves are removed and the stems steamed in order to strip off the fiber. The fibers are then cooked for two hours in soda ash before being put in a ball mill for 2 hours. The resulting paper is a light tan or brown color.

Arctium and Velcro

After taking his dog for a walk one day in the early 1940s, George de Mestral, a Swiss inventor, became curious about the fruits of the burdock plant that had attached themselves to his clothes and to the dog's fur. Under a microscope, he looked closely at the hook-and-loop system that the seeds have evolved to hitchhike on passing animals and aid dispersion, and he realized that the same approach could be used to join other things together. The result was Velcro.

Many plant species have 'Velcro' systems, Galium aparine, the Bidens spp., Xanthium strumarium, etc., that allow their seed to hook on animal fleece in order to be carried away,; this is called zoochory.


The photos of the gallery were taken either with one of the following: The title in the window shows the date when the picture was taken, i.e. jan_30_06... would mean that the photo was taken on the 30th of January, the 06 is for the 6th picture taken that day.

The month, day and picture number might be followed by a letter:

and if there is no letter it's obviously the Minolta.

Click on the thumbnails to get larger view. The original photos are usually in TIFF format, the photos shown are generally in JPEG format, usually of dimension one half (surface one quarter) for loading time reduction.

Plants, petioles

The picture on the left shows young plants, that of the middle a mature plant, the next one is a plant in winter, and the one on the right is a cross section of the petiole of a mature plant.

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Fruits ands seeds

The plant with the fruits photographed below was growing inside a shed, close to the door. The background of the picture at the right is the planks of the shed.

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