A Burdock — clawed my Gown —
Not Burdock’s — blame —
But mine —
Who went too near
The Burdock’s Den —
— Emily Dickinson
I’ve always been familiar with this poem, but it wasn’t until I went searching for a Burdock den that I realized this plant is everywhere! It grows along roadsides and old fence lines, in fields and ditches, along stream banks and in all neglected areas. It spreads like wildfire, but why did Emily Dickinson call a patch of Burdock a “den” I wondered.
In The Ugly Duckling, Hans Christian Andersen says, “In a sunny spot stood a pleasant old farmhouse, circled all about with deed canals; and from the walls down to the water’s edge grew great burdocks, so high that under the tallest of them a little child might stand upright.” Since it grows in full or partial shade and can reach a height of 6 feet, I suppose a large concentration of Burdock could be viewed as a “den” and a place to be avoided.
A Burdock seed head is covered with small, Velcro-like devices that easily fasten onto anything or anybody that passes. In this way the seeds travel to a new location that is less crowded — an ingenious method of seed dispersal!