(Arctium minus; Lappa officinalis: var. minor of Gray) Thistle
Flower-heads - Composite of tubular florets only, about 1/2 in.
broad; magenta varying to purplish or white; the prominent round
involucre of many overlapping leathery bracts, tipped with hooked
bristles. Stem: 2 to 5
ft. high, simple or branching, coarse.
Leaves: Large, the lower ones often 1 ft. long, broadly ovate,
entire edged, pale or loosely cottony beneath, on hollow
Preferred Habitat - Waste ground, waysides, fields, barnyards.
Flowering Season - July-October.
Distribution - Common throughout our area. Naturalized from
A larger burdock than this (A. Lappa) may be more common in a few
localities of the East, but wherever one wanders, this plebeian
boldly asserts itself. In close-cropped pastures it still
flourishes with the well-armed thistles and mulleins, for the
great leaves contain an exceedingly bitter, sour juice,
distasteful to grazers. Nevertheless the unpaid cattle, like
every other beast and man, must nolens volens transplant the burs
far away from the parent plant to found new colonies. Literally
by hook or by crook they steal a ride on every switching tail,
every hairy dog and woolly sheep, every trouser-leg or petticoat.
Even the children, who make dolls and baskets of burdock burs,
aid them in their insatiate love of travel. Wherever man goes,
they follow, until, having crossed Europe - with the Romans? -
they are now at home throughout this continent. Their vitality is
amazing; persecution with scythe and plow may retard, but never
check their victorious march. Opportunity for a seed to germinate
may not come until late in the summer; but at once the plant sets
to work putting forth flowers and maturing seed, losing no time
in developing superfluous stalk and branches. Butterflies, which,
like the Hoboken Dutch, ever delight in magenta, and bees of
various kinds, find these flowers, with a slight fragrance as an
additional attraction, generous entertainers.
Pink, of all colors, is the most unstable in our flora, and the
most likely to fade. Magentas incline to purple, on the one hand,
or to pure pink on the other, and delicate shades quickly blanch
when long exposed to the sun's rays. Thus we frequently find
white blossoms of the once pink rhododendron, laurel, azalea,
bouncing Bet, and turtle-head. Albinos, too, regularly occur in
numerous species. Many colored flowers show a tendency among
individuals to revert to the white type of their ancestors. The
reader should bear these facts in mind, and search for his
unidentified flower in the previous section or in the following
one if this group does not contain it.
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Next: WHITE AND GREENISH FLOWERS
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