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

How soon after stump grinding can something else be planted?
January 18, 2009 - How soon after cutting down a Mulberry and grinding up the stump can we plant a new tree in its place?
view the full question and answer

Problems with non-native plumbago in San Antonio
November 21, 2009 - Plumbago problem. Live in San Antonio. Planted about 7 of these last spring, all from same store and at the same time. They are HUGE, blooming, thriving, except for the two on the end. They're in a d...
view the full question and answer

Evergreen hedge for constant rain
June 24, 2008 - We live in Washington State up north by Canadian border. We need a hedge that will survive the constant rain. We have tried cedar. They seem to turn brown and die,one at a time so we keep replacing th...
view the full question and answer

Sticky stuff dripping from non-native crape myrtle in Austin
August 01, 2012 - There is sticky sap-like stuff dropping from the very large crepe myrtle in my yard. The tree has quit blooming. This didn't happen last year when it was so dry; it started after we had all the rain ...
view the full question and answer

Pruning of non-native chocolate mimosa
August 07, 2008 - I have a one year old chocolate mimosa that has grown 2.5 feet in height. It has seven leaf stems two feet from the bottom and only three at the top canopy. The trunk is only three quarters of an inch...
view the full question and answer

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