Burdock (Arctium Lappa/minus)
Common Name: Greater Burdock Latin: Arctium Lappa Family: Asteraceae
History and/or use: Effective blood purifier. Edible shoots and roots.
Wildlife Value: Good nectar source for insects including painted lady and small tortoiseshell butterflies
Qualities of Burdock
'Man must be made conscious of his origin as a child of Nature. Brought into right relationship with the wilderness he would see that he was not a separate entity endowed with a divine right to subdue his fellow creatures and destroy the common heritage, but rather an integral part of a harmonious whole. He would see that his appropriation of earth's resources beyond his personal needs would only bring imbalance and beget ultimate loss and poverty for all. '
John Muir 1911
The burdock stretches down into the earth bringing up goodness and sustenance, purifying our bodies and growing into a large foliage plant often called 'wild rhubarb'. Still in Edinburgh the spirit of this indomitable plant is honoured.
A man dresses from head to toe in its burrs known as the Burry Man and is offered whisky and money to keep the town safe. The origins of this custom are lost, however in tribes all across the world people dress up as the spirits of plants and nature to be honoured and appeased.
I feel Burdock asks us to be fearless for to feel the grief of our loss of the natural world and still hold steady and continue to do what is right, remaining positive and at ease where there is suffering is a gift we can offer to the world, a gift which involves honouring the spirit of all nature:
Wee little hooks on each brown little bur, (Mind where you’re going, O Madam and Sir!) How they will cling to your skirt-hem and stocking! Hear how the Burdock is laughing and mocking: Try to get rid of me, try as you will, Shake me and scold me, I'll stick to you still, I'll stick to you still!
Cicely Mary Barker 1925
Burdock as already mentioned has a deep root that can be eaten fresh or dried as a blood purifier. In fact it is considered one of the finest and most effective blood purifiers in the medical herbal world working with the kidneys to filter out all the impurities from the blood.
If you have any medical conditions please check with a medical herbalist first before taking any plant and only harvest it if you are 100% sure what it is!
The fresh leaves can be applied to ulcers and sores as they are cooling and moderately drying.
As food the young stalks can be peeled and chopped to add to a meat broth or eaten with melted butter. The root as already mentioned can also be eaten by chopping it into rings and frying it. The sticky bur- like buds are very abrasive to the skin and have been named bachelor or sticky buttons.
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Poetry of flowers
Join me to explore the flora of the British Isles on this blog. My intention is to attempt to capture the unique quality and beauty of each species of flower, tree or shrub. For every species featured I will be growing many more wildflowers to celebrate the joy of their existence, their intrinsic conservation value and bewildering array of uses. For nearly 30 years I have noted, studied and explored wildflowers in the field much to the patience of the walker beside me. To share this passion is a heartfelt plea to respect, preserve and care for all British Wildflowers no matter how common they seem.