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Burdock, a plant with a past

September 27, 2017

If you walk down through Bathing House Wood, along the Coastal Path from the west, you may have noticed a plant with very big leaves growing just were one of the paths from Swallow Craig joins the main path.  This is Burdock and at the end of July when these photos were taken it was in flower

The purple flowers betray that it is a relative of the thistles and like them can be popular with Common Carder Bumblebees.




For those who have long memories Burdock was an ingredient of a soft drink from my childhood that has had a resurgence of popularity in recent years, Dandelion & Burdock. It is not an unpleasant drink, but it is a bit of an acquired taste. 


But it has another claim to fame and the neat hooks attached to the seeds, already visible in the summer flowers, are the reason.


The plant grows widely across Europe and in the late 1940s Swiss engineer George de Mestral, when removing the burrs of this plant from his dog’s coat, looked more closely at the hooks and recognised that there was the potential for a new type of fastening. Thus was Velcro™ developed.


Now if you walk along there, the clusters of hooked seeds are brown and are ready to snag any suitable passing clothing or animal fur. But there are also big leaves beside the brown plants and these show there are more Burdock plants waiting to come into flower next year.

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