June 18, 2007



"Crown'd with rank fumiter and furrow-weeds with burdock, hemlocks, nettles, cuckoo-flowers" King Lear by Shakespeare

Last week I posted on a mystery plant in my garden this Spring. Blackswampgirl ( Kim ) of A Study in Contrasts garden blog wrote that it was perhaps burdock. And, after doing more research on it, I found that she was indeed correct. Thank you , Kim.

But burdock is not exactly a weed . A member of the thistle family, it is an herb and every part of it - roots, leaves and seeds are used for medicinal purposes such as skin problem, blood purification, etc. And, it's been around a very long time. Even Shakespeare waxed poetically about it, as described above.

Low and behold the other day I was at a potential client's garden and saw it growing everywhere. I winced when she said, " Look at these weeds ! " I didn't have the heart to say they were not weeds. They looked so much better than mine.

I don't think I could destroy it right now because it's about to bloom. On the other hand, because I have a small urban garden, I'm struggling to clear it of invasive plants. I've been totally without mercy in removing Spiderwort, thinning out the Korean bell flowers, blackeyed Susans, etc.

Question is : should I keep it ?


  1. I had some burdock show up last year in a flower bed. Once I figured out what it was, I got rid of it because I didn't want to risk the burs and having a lot more show up everywhere. As I recall it has a very thick tap root.

  2. Sure. Keep it this year. Though they do get pretty ratty looking after they flower. And as I said before, be sure to deadhead it.

    At the risk of sounding like I'm picking nits. (It's the editor's curse.) I reserve 'invasive' to describe plants that have the potential to escape garden settings and displace native plants in less managed ecosystems. There are a lot of plants that are aggressive in garden settings, but aren't invasive.

  3. How diligent are you? If you really like the foliage can you keep it from blooming and thus spreading?

  4. Carol,

    Thanks for the advice, I'm sorta leaning toward your way of thinking.

    Ellis, you are absolutely right, I should have said " aggressive " not
    "invasive . "

    Hi Kim, Blackswamp girl, I can't be terribly diligent in the summer 'cause I'm out planting other people's gardens and don't have much time for mine. I may try the deadheading though.

  5. I wouldn't keep it. We have many wild plants growing around the perimeter of an empty lot now being built on and we get a lot of seedings coming up everywhere. So it's quite a spreader. I let one grow a bit and dug out a foot long root in about a month. We cooked it and it was like the regular Japanese gobo with less taste.

  6. Burdock is our Ali! Keep it and harvest it's roots in the fall of it's second year. It is an excellent kidney cleanse and all around tonic for all that ails you! I grow mine on purpose!

  7. Boy, I would take it out. I have it on my property and it is extremely agressive. Since it is a native plant, I guess I can't lable it as invasive. . . But I have spent some very unpleasant times trying to get the balls of burrs out of my long haired cat's coat. And if it likes where it is, it can get VERY large. There is one across the street in a wild patch of the yard that is three feet in diameter.

    The definition of a weed is any plant that is not where you want it. I have lots of volunteer tomato plants (courtesy of my mulch) that I consider weeds.

  8. So did you keep it? I love Burdock and oddly enough just did an entry on it. It is one of my favorite weeds in Chicago.

  9. Hi mrbrownthumb. I'll check out your post on Burdock.

    No I couldn't keep it. The bugs ate it up. It must be yummy.


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