The plant species commonly known as burdock has a number of varieties and, while native to Europe and Asia, has been introduced world wide. From the genus Arctium in the family Asteraceae, this flowering plant has been used in both food and medicinal practices. Visually, they have large dark green leaves, sometimes growing in excess of 25 inches long. These plants will typically flower from July through October and provide pollen and nectar for honey bees.
The taproot of young plants can be harvested and eaten as a root vegetable. While this use has fallen in popularity in Europe, it remains popular in Asian cultures. The roots are crisp with a sweet, mild flavor. The immature flower stalks may be harvested in spring, before the plant flowers. They are said to have a flavor similar to artichoke, a relative of the burdock.
Folk herbalists used burdock as a diuretic as well as other purposes. Bur oil is sometimes used in Europe as a scalp treatment.