May 13, 2020 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, June 2020

Beware of Burdock

Burdock may be an inconvenience to humans, but it can be a death trap for hummingbirds. Reports of hummingbirds hopelessly snared in burdock burrs aren't frequent, but they are regular each summer.
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The common burdock (Arctium minus) is considered a weed by most people, in part because it is not a native plant, but was brought here from Europe, and now grows wild from coast to coast. Those familiar with the plant, which can grow to six feet, know it mostly because of the tenacious burrs it produces. They are fairly large, spiky, and cling to almost anything they touch. It is how the plant spreads its seeds, but anyone who has walked through a burdock patch has had the experience of trying to detach the pesky burrs without puncturing fingers.

Burdock may be an inconvenience to humans, but it can be a death trap for hummingbirds. Reports of hummingbirds hopelessly snared in burdock burrs aren't frequent, but they are regular each summer.

The problem for the hummingbirds is that they are not strong enough to pull the burrs lose from the plants, and they become trapped, "Velcroed" in place. In thrashing about to free themselves, the birds only become more entangled. If burdock has invaded your yard or property, this is one plant you'd be wise to remove.



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