En Español

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

Recovery from transplant shock for bougainvillea
July 12, 2007 - I live outside of Phoenix. I just bought a bougainvillea in a large pot. It was doing nicely until I brought it home. I placed it in a sunny spot in my front yard inside of a large volcanic rock that ...
view the full question and answer

Planting non-native peach seed from Archdale NC
September 13, 2010 - Planting and watering peach seeds. Can you give advice for my 12 year old who has recently planted some peach seeds in our yard in Archdale NC? Is the fall okay for planting? Watering instructions? I...
view the full question and answer

Fungal root rot in non-native Shasta daisies in Channahon IL
July 21, 2009 - HELP! My Shasta daisies have fungal root rot. Is there any way to save them? I've been removing the browned stems. I'm so sad.
view the full question and answer

Saving non-native crape myrtles watered with salt water in McAllen TX
May 27, 2010 - I have a crape myrtle plants that were accidentally watered with salt water from a purifier that was drained. They are dying and turning brown. What can I do to revive them?
view the full question and answer

Non-native, invasive Paulownia for San Marcos TX
April 24, 2012 - Can a Paulownia tree grow in San Marcos? If so were can I get one?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center