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The woolly burdock is also commonly known as downy burdock and it is a species of burdock belonging to the Asteraceae family. It is thought that this plant was spread by large mammals after the Ice Age. This is a biennial plant that closely resembles the common burdock plant.
This plant is a Eurasian introduction that can be clearly distinguished from the other burdocks by the abundant cobweb-like hairs that cover the floral bracts below their hooked tips. Like the common (or greater) burdock (Arctium lappa) there are many similaries between the two plants.
Many globose flower heads grow in panicles. A single flower measures approximately 2.5 cm (1”) with the capitula surrounded by involucral bracts. Disc florets are purple and tubular. It has five stamens and the pistil has two fused carpels. Flowers occur anytime from June to September depending on geographic location.
Leaves are alternate, stalked, stalks with tomentum (woolly hair) when young. Blade broadly ovate, often cordate-based, sharp-tipped, small-toothed, dark green on top, hairy along veins, underside densely grey-cottony (tomentose). Leaf sizes vary and can reach up to 40 cm long and 30 cm wide.
This plant grows anywhere from 50 to 150 cm (20 to 60”) tall. Stems branch at higher levels of the plant.
The woolly burdock grows in disturbed areas, along roadsides, in farmland, forests as well as in open areas, wet and dry grassland.
Young leaves are edible although quite bitter making them virtually inedible. Root is edible; use the root from the first year's growth. In the second year the root becomes too woody to eat but can still be used to make a tea. If harvesting for medicinal purposes, the root of the first year of growth is prefered in the autumn.
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