Common names (selected): English: bardane, beggar’s button, burdock, clotbur, common burdock, cuckoo-button, lesser burdock, small burdock, Velcro plant, wild burdock, wild rhubarb; French: petite Bardane; German: Kleine Klette; Italian: Bardana minore; Spanish: bardana menor, lampazo menor
Native regions and distribution: Native to temperate Asia and Europe, but now found throughout North and South America, Australia, and North Africa
Urban habitat: Commonly found in vacant lots, rubble dumps, urban meadows, highway banks and medians, roadsides, drainage ditches, in neglected public parks and at woodland edges. It thrives in moist soils in full or partial sun but can grow well in a variety of soil conditions and can tolerate road salt.
Ecological function: Disturbance-adapted colonizer of bare ground; food and habitat for insects.
History / human uses: Arctium minus arrived early in North America, introduced with the arrival of European colonists probably due to its long history of medicinal use dating back to the first century in Greek culture. It is now found widely throughout North America. In both China and Europe, A. minus has long been used as a detoxifying agent and to treat gout, rheumatism, liver and kidney ailments, and skin eruptions. The plant’s root is thought to be effective at removing heavy metals from the body and has been found to lower blood pressure by dilating the blood vessels. Many Native American tribes, including the Abnaki, Chippewa, Delaware, Iroquois, Mohegan, and Ojibwa, used the plant medicinally, using it as a blood purifier and stimulant, as well as for treatment of headaches, stomachaches, fevers, coughs, colds, swellings, and for pain during childbirth. Many parts of the plant are edible: the roasted roots have been used as a coffee substitute and its young leaves consumed raw or cooked. A fiber obtained from the inner bark of the stem can be used to make a light tan/brown paper. The Swiss designer George de Mestral reports that he studied burdock burs while he was coming up with the idea which led to the invention of Velcro. The plant plays a prominent role in Shakespeare’s play As You Like It, as metaphor in a conversation between Rosalind and Celia.