Common Burdock (Arctium minus)

Asteraceae or Sunflower Family


Large, coarse plant.  Leaves large, upper egg-shaped, lower somewhat heart-shaped and wavy-edged.  Flowers white to pink to purple, in small prickly heads, somewhat resembling thistle heads.  Heads on very short stalks, or stalkless.  Fruit a prickly, clinging bur.  Blooms in summer to fall.

A weed from Eurasia, common in waste places.  In Wildwood, occasional along bikeway, especially in South Meadow area beyond the second bridge.

Combination of traits fairly distinctive.  Flowers resemble thistle heads, but thistles have prickly leaves.  Leaves may resemble some of the bitter dock (Rumex obtusifolius), but flowers are completely different. Spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa) and Tyrol knapweed (C. nigrescens) have somewhat similar flowerheads, but they are more spreading and showy. Both species also have narrower leaves, and in spotted knapweed the leaves are divided into narrow lobes.  Great burdock (Arctium lappa) is similar, but larger throughout, and with flower heads on long stalks; it has not been reported from Virginia.

Purple Flowerheads

Flowerhead close up

Pale flowerheads