Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - June 13, 2006

From: Tonawanda, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Non-native, invasive Arctium minus in New York
Answered by: Dean Garrett

QUESTION:

For as long as I can remember, my family has been picking and eating a wild plant which we and other Italian families call " cardoons". I've often heard to it referred to burdock but no one knows the exact name and I would really like to know what it is. The plant has a very broad leaf and a stalk that resembles that of a celery stalk. Where we live in the northeast, these plants seem to appear in the late spring and again in the mid-summer. Any help in the identification of this plant would be greatly appreciated.

ANSWER:

My Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines cardoon as “a large perennial plant (Cynara cardunculus) related to the artichoke and cultivated for its edible root and leafstalks.” In the photos I've found, it doesn't appear to have the large leaves you describe, but the drawing in the last link shows a sort of celery-like stalk. It is also known as wild artichoke or thistle artichoke.

Burdock is defined as “any of a genus (Arctium) of coarse composite herbs bearing globular flower heads with prickly bracts.” Arctium minus, common burdock, is the most common species in North America. Its root has been commonly used for food in various places and time periods.

Both are very invasive Eurasian species that were introduced into the Americas as garden vegetables, but of the two only Arctium minus would likely be growing wild in New York. Though also edible, wild-growing Cynara cardunculus is quite prickly; you probably would have said it looked like a thistle if that's what you'd seen.

The word cardoon is derived from a Latin word for thistle, artichoke, or chard and was thus likely applied over time to several plants.
 

More Non-Natives Questions

Decline of non-native weeping willow
June 30, 2008 - I live in Breckenridge, Texas and last year I planted a Weeping Willow tree on my property. It grew fine and seemed to be very healthy until this month. All of a sudden it has steadily lost all its ...
view the full question and answer

Protecting a non-native Meyer Lemon from Freezing in Austin
January 05, 2013 - What is the best way to protect my Meyer Lemon tree from freezing Austin weather? It has been planted in my yard for 1 year and is about 4 feet high
view the full question and answer

Care for non-native mandevilla in Greensboro, NC
June 11, 2009 - I bought two potted mandevilla vines last year and read on a website for winter care to cut the vine back at least a foot from the soil. However this spring going into summer it has barely produced an...
view the full question and answer

Possible non-native squash and gourd cross from Kyle TX
June 10, 2012 - Last year I gathered seeds from the yellow squash plants that were grown from a seed packet (hybrid, I assume). Well, now the fruit produced by those plants seems to be a cross between a yellow squash...
view the full question and answer

Care for non-native Mexican ruellia in Monroe LA
October 27, 2009 - Dwarf Mexican Petunia I have found information that late in the season, when growth becomes leggy, cut back plants by as much as a half to force a new spurt of growth. Watch for tobacco bud wo...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.