Lesser Burdock - Arctium minus - Western Isles Wildflowers

Lesser Burdoch Purple Wildflowers Western Isles
Lesser Burdock - Purple Wildflowers
These lovely purple thistle like flowers adorn the long stems throughout July to September in The Western Isles of Scotland.

Burrs - Attach Themselves
It is more well known for its "burrs", or hooked bracts that attach themselves to humans and animals as they pass, rather than its purple flowers.

Lesser Burdock somewhat resembles a thistle plant, though is really very pretty.

Is it a Weed?

Many think of this plant as a weed and indeed it does readily grow on rough ground and by the roadside edges, waste ground and also in open woodland, however the purple thistle like flowers that are splendidly large, being 3/4 inches (2 cm) in width are really very pretty.

Out of each flower projects a deep purple column of fused stamens, the male, pollen producing organ. When the flowering cycle is over, the flower heads dry out to form the burr. The burrs last through the winter, sowing the enclosed seeds very cleverly by attaching themselves to passing animals or humans.

Thistles - Seed Transportation
Many people mistake these flowers for thistles, but the leaves of this plant help to identify it. The Lesser Burdock plant can grow up to 5ft in height and is quite big and bushy.

Outer bracts end in hooks that are like Velcro. After the flower head dries, the hooked bracts will attach to humans and animals and the entire seedhead is transported in this way.

Not a Member of the "Dock" Family
Although the name suggests that this lovely purple wildflower is a member of the "dock" family, it isn't, it actually belongs to the daisy (Asteraceae) family.

The Lesser Burdock is a biennial, its purple flowers showing in its second year of growth

Name Derivation

The first syllable of the plants name Bur - comes from the French word "bourre", (originating from the Latin "burra" ) meaning a lock of wool, a reference which may have started out as sheep can often get the "burrs" of this plant caught in their coats.

The second part of the name the English "dock" referring to the extremely huge large leaves.

Common Names

The lesser burdoch has many common names such as beggar's buttons, clot-bur, cocklebur, fox's clote,happy major, hardock, personata, and gypsy's or Robin Hood's rhubarb.


During the Middle Ages, burdock was believed to be very valuable in the treatment of diseases and common ailments.

Also in the middle ages knights often rode into battle with a sprig of burdock, which was said to protect and promote healing, particularly of the feet.

A charm of burdock root, gathered under a waning moon and strung around the neck was also said to ward away evil influences.

Lesser Burdoch - Hebrides Flora
Click pictures below for larger photographs


Herbalists Use Lesser Burdock
Nowadays the burdock root is used by herbalists as a blood purifiers, and for treating chronic skin problems, eczema.

Consumed as Tea
Burdock can be either consumed in tea or capsule form, or applied externally.

It is said to help digestion, assist in getting rid of kidney stones, be good for the liver and also improves hair growth as well as help with rheumatics.

Lesser Burdock

The broad leaves are huge, up to 50cm. The wavy leaves are spade-shaped or oval and are connected to the main stalk

by short hollow stems.

The stalks are hairy. The undersides tend to be whitish green and slightly woolly.

The leaves look somewhat similar to that of rhubarb leaves, though they aren't as shiny as rhubarb leaves.

Burdock was the Inspiration behind the Invention of Velcro
Lesser burdock was the inspiration for the invention of the useful product "Velcro", created in the 1940's by a Swiss engineer, George de Mestral, who when removing the burrs from his dog's fur and his own clothing, realised that its hooks and loops could be replicated to good effect. This he did, calling it 'Velcro' - velour and crochet (hook).
©2014 Virtual Hebrides
Website Design and Hosting by Western Isles Web Services Ltd, Isle of Lewis Western Isles - Outer Hebrides
This image can be purchased for £5.
If 3 or more images are purchased the price will be reduced to £4 per image. Eg. 3 images would cost only £12, a saving of £3. We place no restriction on the use of images purchased, they can be used on websites or printed media without further cost.

Once you have purchased your image(s) you will be sent an email with a link to where you can download the image(s). Your image(s) will be available for download for up 3 month after the date of purchase


   Image Size:

  Pixels Inches Centimetres
  Inches and cm sizes are approximate