This section is from the book "Nature's Garden", by Neltje Blanchan. Also available from Amazon: Nature's Garden; An Aid To Knowledge Of Our Wild Flowers And Their Insect Visitors.
Flower-heads - Composite of tubular florets only, about 1/2 in. broad; magenta varying to purplish or white; the prominent round involucre of many overlapping leathery bracts, tipped with hooked bristles. Stem: 2 to 5 ft. high, simple or branching, coarse. Leaves: Large, the lower ones often 1 ft. long, broadly ovate, entire edged, pale or loosely cottony beneath, on hollow petioles.
Flowering Season - July - October.
Distribution - Common throughout our area. Naturalized from Europe.
A larger burdock than this (A. Lappa) may be more common in a few localities East, but wherever one wanders, this plebeian boldly asserts itself. In close-cropped pastures it still flourishes with the well-armed thistles and mulleins, for the great leaves contain an exceedingly bitter, sour juice, distasteful to grazers. Nevertheless the unpaid cattle, like every other beast and man, must nolens volens transplant the burs far away from the parent plant to found new colonies. Literally by hook or by crook they steal a ride on every switching tail, every hairy dog and woolly sheep, every trouser-leg or petticoat. Even the children, who make dolls and baskets of burdock burs, aid them in their insatiate love of travel. Wherever man goes, they follow, until, having crossed Europe - with the Romans? - they are now at home throughout this continent. Their vitality is amazing; persecution with scythe and plow may retard, but never check their victorious march. Opportunity for a seed to germinate may not come until late in the summer; but at once the plant sets to work putting forth flowers and maturing seed, losing no time in developing superfluous stalk and branches. Butterflies, which, like the Hoboken Dutch, ever delight in magenta, and bees of various kinds, find these flowers, with a slight fragrance as an additional attraction, generous entertainers.
Pink, of all colors, is the most unstable in our flora, and the most likely to fade. Magentas incline to purple, on the one hand, or to pure pink on the other, and delicate shades quickly blanch when long exposed to the sun's rays. Thus we frequently find white blossoms of the once pink rhododendron, laurel, azalea, bouncing Bet, and turtle-head. Albinos, too, regularly occur in numerous species. Many colored flowers show a tendency among individuals to revert to the white type of their a?icestors. The reader should bear these facts in mind, and search for his unidentified flower in the previous section or in the following one if this group does not contain it.