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Burdock Nature Study

Burdock Plant 8

Here is our burdock nature study happy to have had a chance to see it in person!

Hiking in Utah we saw an area with these plants that had HUGE leaves. I was intrigued and took a photo so I could later look it up in my field guide. I had no idea that what I was looking at was first year burdock!

Burdock Plant 1

Later on in the hike, we spotted these blooming plants and I was pretty sure what we were seeing was burdock. I had read all about this plant when I was writing the current ebook and was sort of on the lookout for it in our travels this summer. I apologize for the blurry photos but it had started to rain and we were moving quickly off the mountain.

Burdock Plant 3

Here is a closer look at the leaves.

Burdock Plant 6

And here is the underside of the leaf. It is much whiter than the top of the leaf.

Burdock Plant 4

Here are a couple more images we took to document our discovery.

Burdock Plant 7

In reflection, the plants and flowers are much larger than I anticipated.

The flowers look like prickly balls with purplish color. The flower is ringed with spiny hooks all around.

We noted that the first year leaves are large and wavy looking while the second year plant with the flowers are much smaller and less wavy.

This was a case of preparation in identifying a wildflower/weed…reading up on things and then looking for them when you are out for your Outdoor Hour Challenge time creates such a sense of satisfaction. Since the Handbook of Nature Study was written for a specific region, many of the topics are not found naturally in California. This never stumbles me since I view the time reading and researching topics for future use a very valuable tool in learning more as I go through life.

Did you find some burdock this week?

Cocklebur weed walking trail (3)

But, guess what? We found something right alongside our walking trail that looks remarkably like burdock. We snapped some photos and made some observations.

Cocklebur weed walking trail (7)

Doing some additional research online, we found out that this plant that looks like burdock is a the cocklebur plant!


Both the cocklebur and the burdock plants are in the asteraceae family…which is probably why they have some of the same characteristics.

What a great find and discovery!

9 thoughts on “Burdock Nature Study

  1. Your website has helped inspire my daughter with her fifth grade science fair project! We are studying the weeds/wildflowers along a fence row where we walk a few times a week. Yesterday was the third specific walk geared towards observing the changes and documenting how many are still blooming as fall moves into East Tennessee. Thank you for sharing such great ideas!

    1. What a fun project! Let me know what you learn…it would be a great article in the newsletter.

  2. We have burdock growing on our farm. When we first moved here I thought it was wild rhubarb because the leaves are similar in some respects and quite large. Happy with what I thought was a prolific abundance of a useful and well-liked plant in our family, I remember showing my father (who grew up on different farms) the plants. He said to try to get rid of burdock because of the burrs and that it could quickly overtake an area. Also, livestock can get the burrs stuck in their wool, fur, or manes (depending on what kind of animals you have)

    That being said, when it comes time to do our nature study on burdock, I’m curious to know if there are any useful purposes to the plant – either for wildlife or humans. I would think there HAS to be something beneficial to this plant…even if it’s just cover for the littlest animals in a rainstorm.

    1. There are links in the original challenge to medicinal uses of burdock and edible parts of burdock.

      1. Thanks, Barb! I’ll take a look at those.

  3. We have lots of burdock here, so we looked at some in more detail this week, examining with a magnifying glass, taking apart the burrs, etc. Thank you for posting those videos, we really enjoyed them. We found first year plants with various sizes (it does look similar to rhubarb in some ways) and then we saw various sizes of the plants with the flowers and seeds…one was almost as tall as me!

    1. Glad the videos were helpful…have a great study.

  4. We also have burdock in our flower gardens. It is a challenge to get rid of since the roots are deep. While it is a nuisance, I know there are some medicinal uses for the roots. It would put an interesting twist on the study of burdock.

    1. There is a link in the original challenge to medicinal benefits of burdock.

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