Burrdock

COLUMN: The very conspicuous burdock: A clinger of a problem

Don’t be deceived by its’ pretty purple flowers sitting atop a ball of prickly bracts

Ah, springtime. Everyone loves a beautiful yard with blooming flowers and tiny birds fluttering through the air.

Wait. What is that strange plant staring you down from across your lawn? Don’t be deceived by its’ pretty purple flowers sitting atop a ball of prickly bracts and broad heart-shaped leaves for there is no love in this plant.

You are familiar with this plant in fall when the bracts have dried and come off easily on your clothes as you walk past. This is the common burdock: clinger of clothes, a tangler of fur, and killer of tiny, helpless animals. It can grow up to two metres tall and with its large leaves can shade out other plants.

Burdock is a hardy plant that prefers to grow in disturbed soils but can live happily almost anywhere. It was introduced intentionally or accidentally to Canada from Europe in the 1700s and now its distribution is pretty much worldwide.

Around the world, many cultures have found ways to use the plant for food and drink. The plant also has medicinal properties, the root can be added cooked or raw to any meal you choose for its’ detoxifying qualities. Humans have also copied the hook system of burdocks’ bracts as an inspiration for Velcro.

As inconvenient as it is for the burrs to be sticking to our clothes and hair, it can be a fatal trap for small animals, such as birds and bats, which get tangled in this sticky situation. These animals are not strong enough to free themselves from the clusters of seed heads. Like a fly stuck in a sticky trap, the more they struggle, the more stuck they become.

Not only do these sticky traps affect small animals but they can also be harmful to livestock. The burs get tangled in manes and tails of horses and cows, and can also de-value the wool of sheep. Heavily burred animals become stressed and can experience nose, eyes, and mouth injuries which reduce the market value and comfort of the animal.

Burdock is considered an invasive plant because of its vigorous nature and easily outcompetes native species.

The wide leaves shade out other pants, eliminating the competition. A high reproductive rate and a very successful method of seed dispersal results in the ultimate invasive weed.

Manual removal of the burdock is possible but very difficult because of their deep taproot. Alternatively, you can prevent the spread of this invasive weed by cutting off the seed heads by mowing, tilling, or just giving the stem a snip before.

The flowers sitting on top of the prickly ball of bracts bloom throughout June to October, so that is the time of year to get those scissors out.

Burdock has been with us for so long, we’ve come to accept it as part of our ecosystem. However, ignoring the infestation of burdock will not make it go away on its own.

To prevent further spread, more education on invasive weeds can help future generations to properly manage this invasive plant.

For more information check out bcinvasives.ca or contact your local Kootenay Invasive Species Society at ckiss.ca. We can slow the spread of this plant and give native species and small animals a better chance to survive in your happy spring garden.

Carley Dolman and Candice Wright are second-year Recreation, Fish and Wildlife students at Castlegar’s Selkirk College.

 

Just Posted

Expect delays on Columbia Avenue

Castlegar’s main thoroughfare will be seeing delays as concrete is poured this week.

Child, 4, attacked by cougar near Fernie

The BC Conservation Officer Service said it happened while the family was fishing

Fires near Rossland, Grand Forks prompt evacuation alerts

RDKB issues alerts to more than 50 properties for two separate fires

Former mayor to advise would-be West Kootenay politicians

Christina Benty will lead a candidate workshop on Aug. 27 in Castlegar

Sunday update: dozens of new fires discovered yesterday in West, East Kootenay

Weather front moving through area sparks fires including in Syringa Provincial Park and Valhalla.

A look at B.C. wildfire smoke from space

NASA provides a timelapse of smoke covering B.C. from space

Child dies in boating incident in Okanagan

A North Vancouver family was boating on Kalamalka Lake in Vernon when the incident occured

B.C. Wildfires 2018: Province calls for federal aid

More fires have burned in B.C. already this year than did in all of 2017

Kayak in Indian Arm waters off B.C.’s Deep Cove and feast on famous doughnuts

About a half hour drive from Vancouver, Deep Cove is a great kayaking spot for locals and tourists

Trans Mountain pipeline protesters practise resisting police at Camp Cloud

Last week, a Supreme Court judge granted the City of Burnaby an injunction ordering protesters to remove everything from the site

Gun used in Fredericton killings is legal, man had licence

Police Chief Leanne Fitch said the long gun is commonly available for purchase, and is not a prohibited or restricted weapon

Ontario will sell pot online when legalization comes in the fall

There are further plans to have pot in private retail stores in early 2019

Woman missing after car swept away by mudslide near Cache Creek

A search is now underway for Valerie Morris, who has been missing since the afternoon of August 11.

VIDEO: B.C. city to host Western Regional Quidditch Championship in 2019

The fictional game in the Harry Potter series has become popular around the world, with 600 athletes in Canada alone

Most Read