Having finished my last, last-ever project, I turn my attention to the embarrassingly overgrown strips of garden flanking our community mailboxes. City property, for sure; just as surely, property on which no City employee has set foot in the last 13 years. Without *some* feet on the ground it would be a completely overgrown tangle of (ob)noxious weeds, the highly successful burdock among them.
Burdock is used for skin problems, stomach problems,
joint swelling, and other conditions,
but there is no good evidence
to support its use for any condition.
Having removed several wheelbarrows-full of burdock from this copse when we first moved in, I feel qualified to amend this statement.
There is no evidence of any sort
to support even the existence of burdock.
– IsabelG, WebGARDENER
Burdock would have to be the combined cure for cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease to make up for its obnoxious trait of latching lamprey-like onto any fabric or hairy or furry surface. When I was still a novice in its ways, I myself pulled its burrs out of my hair, along with hair out of my head.
To be fair, some dedicated back-to-the-landers give foraging instructions for burdock. To be clear, these come with caveats.
There are three edible parts: the young central stalk, which makes excellent food but is only available during a short time in the early summer; the petioles, or leaf stalks, which have a longer season but are a great deal of work to prepare; and the root, which this article will focus on….
Burdock is a biennial…. the only roots worth gathering grow from first-year rosettes. By the time the stalk has grown, the food value has left the root.
Getting burdock roots out of the ground is challenging…. seek out places where several burdocks grow together in a tight clump. Then, dig a two- to three-foot-deep hole next to the plants.
OK, I was going along with the gag until I hit the bit about looking for a spot with several burdocks growing together: A clump like that could permanently ensnare a large dog or small human, and they don’t even give a safety warning. Something appropriate like:
There is no known safe distance from burdock.
As for digging a “two- to three-foot hole” near said clump to harvest its roots, well, no.
Luckily, the burdock, while the worst of my weedy neighbours, is not the most common. That honour might go to the dog-strangling vine, so named, apparently, for its rapid growth: seemingly fast enough to wrap around a sleeping dog’s neck.
The plant can produce up to 28,000 seeds per square metre. The seeds are easily spread by the wind, and new plants can grow from root fragments, making it difficult to destroy. The vine has invaded ravines, hillsides, fence lines, stream banks, roadsides and utility corridors.
– Ontario’s Invading Species Awareness Program
But most weeds that I’m dealing with at least *seem* more innocuous. The majority are merely ground-hugging grasses, annuals with shallow root systems, and opportunistic tree seedlings. Even so, weeding a large area after a long absence feels like shovelling water with a fork. Cleared areas spring magically back to life within days, if not hours.
Is it that I don’t get all the sinewy roots out of the rocky, baked soil? Is it that there are seeds (maybe 28,000 per square metre), just waiting for any drop of moisture to grow grow grow? Yes. And yes.
Ripped up by the roots,
one weed seems to bite the dust.
Many charge the gap.
Nature is resilient, even inexorable: It just keeps coming. In theory, that’s a good thing. In my garden, that’s just a thing.