No, not that kind of weed. It was just a regular old pasture pest, common burdock. But here’s the thing: it was attracting an impressive assortment of photogenic insects. A few days ago I noticed the lower leaves getting crispy, so last night, with the bluish glow of a television flickering in her window, I crept past the neighbor’s house and dumped a half gallon of water on the struggling plant.
Let me clarify that it’s not even her plant. It belongs to someone who couldn’t care less. But the woman has a mean streak a mile wide. Over the past twenty years, every time I’ve said I liked something, like a tree or shrub or flower, it has disappeared the next day. She’d cut off her right arm if I said I liked it, so I don’t say much of anything when she’s around.
On the lookout for autumn forage
In this area, anything that blooms during the summer dearth gets my attention. In spring, flowers are everywhere, but late flowers are hard to come by. This plant is growing close to a pasture gate, too close to the post to reach with a riding mower, which is why it’s still alive.
Common burdock, Arctium minus, is actually an introduced biennial herb with thistle-like flowers but decidedly unthistle-like leaves. It crops up in pastures and barnyards, along roadsides, and in other disturbed (and disturbing) areas.
The plant is known as an “annoying weed” by anyone having to deal with large quantities of it. Apparently the burrs become firmly embedded in clothes and animal fur and are difficult to remove.
Common burdock: a model for Velcro
Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast (Pojar & Mackinnon) explains that the set of bracts beneath the flower head are inwardly hooked and served as the inspiration for Velcro. Nectar and Pollen Plants of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest (Burgett et al.) says that common burdock is attractive to honey bees, providing both nectar and pollen, but does not occur frequently enough to provide reliable forage.
“My” plant, which doesn’t belong to me, the neighbor, or the pasture owner (it belongs to the absentee road easement owner) is a playground for iridescent beetles, wasps with egregiously long ovipositors, furry flies, skippers with tongues like garden hoses, and an assortment of nervous bees that flit from bloom to bloom.
Just for the record, the water didn’t do any good: too little, too late.
Honey Bee Suite