(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.