This section is from the book "Wayside And Woodland Blossoms", by Edward Step. Also available from Amazon: Wayside And Woodland Blossoms: A Guide To British Wild-Flowers.
The Burdock is a plant well-known to artists and boys; the former being interested in it as a fine foreground plant, the latter on account of its hooked bracts, which make the fruit-head an admirable instrument of torture, or an ornament for decorating some other person's clothes. In its young state the plant is suggestive of the Butterbur, the fine bold lower leaves having a densely cottony underside as in that plant. But there the similarity ends, for in Butterbur there is no rising stem, whereas in Burdock this ordinarily reaches a stature of three or four feet. We encountered a fine specimen near Chessington, Surrey, in June, 1894, that had reached the height of seven feet three inches, and as it had only just commenced flowering it would probably put on a few additional inches before its growth ceased. The stem is stout, the leaves alternate, heart-shaped, thick. The flowers are in dense heads, like a thistle, but without any spreading rays. The involucre globose, of many leathery bracts ending in long stiff hooks, by means of which the ripe heads become firmly attached to the coats of animals, and the seeds are thus carried far and wide. Corollas, five-lobed, purple. Common in all waste places. Flowering from June to September. According to Hooker this is the only British species, but the "splitters" have made four or more species out of it.
The name is from the Greek, Arktos, a bear, from its rough appearance.
Arctium lappa. - Compositae. Goose-grass. Cleavers.