Hitchin’ a ride

There are many kinds of seeds in the UK; wind-blown seeds from summer wildflowers, seeds in berries lining the hedgerows, nuts falling from the broadleaved trees and the explosive, water-born seeds of the balsams. Most have now found their way to ground, ready for next year and their chance to germinate. Some are still waiting…

I walked past this bank of burdock (Arctium lappa) this morning – the green has been stripped from the leaves and stem but the brown seeds are lying in wait for a passerby, ideally one with fur.

Burdock seedhead - Arctium lappa

It is well-known but bears repeating that this was the original inspiration for velcro – the myriad tiny hooks lining this bundle of seeds can catch on fur, clothing or even skin to be transported to a new location. As an extra annoyance to any unwilling creature, they disintegrate when mature so that each individual hook in this seemingly solid ball can dissociate from the others making them very difficult to remove. This is presumably to the burdock’s benefit any creature seeking to remove them will probably do so only gradually, as it moves about its territory.

I like the way they line the woodland edge here, just beside an arable field as though they are lying in wait for deer, rabbit or fox to pass by and carry them away.

Burdock seedheads - Arctium lappa


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