Posted tagged ‘burdock’

Johnny Burdock Seed, or You’ve Been Burred!

November 25, 2012

We spent Thanksgiving on Long Island.

Esau the dog near Mecox Bay. (Note how all plants are brown, killed when the bay flooded its banks during Hurricane Sandy.)

Returning to the city, I let my guard down as the dog and I strolled along the upper path in Riverside Park. I was daydreaming, working out a problem in a short play I’m writing. Suddenly I noticed the poor dog was limping. Leaves were hanging off his hind legs, but leaves don’t make a dog limp.

The culprit? My old enemy. Burrs!

Esau, you’ve been burred!

I pulled off the leaves to reveal the hated seeds of the burdock plant.

Burrs on both hind legs.

The evil burdock plants that line the path  had once again entangled my dog’s fur with sticky seeds, turning the poor beast into Johnny Burdockseed, an inadvertent carrier spreading the gospel of burdock wherever he might go.

Still distracted by my thoughts, I didn’t think to take off my mittens before pulling out the burrs.

Grrr. These things are almost impossible to pull out of thick knitted fabric. They break apart easily, and stick to everything they touch, even bare skin. For more on the incredible sticking properties of burdock and the amazing invention they inspired, watch Kelly Rypkema’s video on burdock.

Here are burrs dangling off a burdock plant, like ornaments on Morticia Adams’s Christmas tree.

But lest the brown withered stalk make you think the plant is on its last, er, legs, just take a look at those big healthy-looking green leaves. This burdock is here to stay.

Damn you, burdock. Leave my dog alone.

The Burry Dog Goes Hollywood

November 16, 2012

Kelly Rypkema’s co-star gets a pat from the cameraman.

Fellow NYC nature lover Kelly Rypkema, a biologist and actress, is the creator and star of Nature in a New York Minute.  If you haven’t discovered these charming, informative one-minute videos, here’s your chance as Out Walking the Dog’s own “burry dog” co-stars in Kelly’s most recent video, Burdock.

Be sure to watch until after the credits to see Strider, aka Esau, give a burdock plant a little payback for all those burrs.  If you’re a regular follower of OWTD, you may even recognize the location.

Visit Kelly’s website to sign up for email notifications whenever a new video is released.

For more on the burry dog, the burry man, and all things burdock, visit the links below:

The Burry Man, the Burry Dog, and Burdock

Plant People: Green Man, Burry Man, Moss Man and Poison Ivy

The Return of the Burry Dog

The Return of the Burry Dog

September 28, 2012
Dog and burrs

The Burry Dog

Yes, readers, It’s that time of year again: It’s Burdock Time.

Burrs

Giant clump of burrs waits for unsuspecting passerby.

I’ve written at some length about burdock and its progeny, the burr, as well as about wonderfully bizarre ancient celebrations like the burry man.  So I’m familiar with this tenacious non-native weed whose extraordinary clinginess inspired the invention of velcro.  And yet, despite my heightened burdock awareness, on a recent walk on the upper pathway inside Riverside Park, the dog and the burdock became again … as one.

Dog with burrs in his fur

Eyebrow burrs from a 2010 encounter.

The day shone, the air was fresh, and for a moment, all had seemed right with our little world.  And then the dog started limping. Checking his paws, I found burrs, burrs and more burrs. In a moment of inattention, lulled by the beauty of the day, we had once again been ambushed by burdock, which lies in wait for moving targets like my poor dog in order to spread its seed and take over an unsuspecting world.

Burdock plant in fall

It only looks dead.

Since I first wrote about burrs in 2010, readers have shared their burry encounters. Carlie wrote me about the annual Burdock Festival of Benson, Vermont.  And Tricia of Amusing the Zillion, the peerless blog of all things Coney Island, told me burdock is a Japanese delicacy known as gobo, and is readily available at local Japanese restaurants. (Note to  Tricia: we still need to meet up for that burdock dish in the East Village.)  I also learned that burdock root, which is said to have anti-bacterial and healing properties, was one of the original ingredients in root beer, which is the nicest thing I’ve heard about burdock yet.

Antique Hires Root Beer Advertisement

Hires Root Beer, the health & temperance drink. Image: James D. Julia Auctioneers

Now I see that NYC’s own forager, Wildman Steve Brill, offers lots of burdock information as well as a video on cooking the evil vegetable.

And there seems to be a whole movement to Eat the Weeds, which sounds to me like a very good idea, indeed.

Just do us all a favor, and start with burdock. The dog and I will thank you.

The dog and I: same hair style.

Read more:
The Burry Man, the Burry Dog and Burdock
Plant People: Green Man, Burry Man, Moss Man and Poison Ivy 

Most Popular Urban Nature Stories of 2011: Numbers 10 – 6

December 30, 2011

Today and tomorrow, we’re celebrating another year of watching New York City’s urban wildlife by looking back at Out Walking the Dog’s Top Stories of 2011.  The articles include mastodons, chihuahua-carrying hawks, whales, coyotes, rodents, burdock, peacocks and the secret garden of St. John the Divine. Today I’ll count down from Number Ten through Number Six. Tomorrow I’ll cover Numbers Five through One.

Ladies and gentlemen, let the countdown begin:

Number 10:
In the Number Ten spot, we have a tie between two very different stories.

NYC Coyote Existential: Where Do They Come From and Where are They Going? explores recent scientific research behind the origins of the coyotes that are populating the Northeast and have begun turning up in NYC. Prompted by my own sightings of a young female coyote in Central Park, the story features several of D. Bruce Yolton’s marvelous night photos that capture the odd, dream-like quality of seeing a coyote in our urban world.

Seed Pods and Eyeballs offers a brief exploration of the marvelous Sweetgum tree with its ubiquitous (in Riverside Park, anyway) spiky seedpods, known as monkey balls, porcupine eggs and space balls, among other colorful names. I was inspired to write the post by a reader’s query about the starry eyes of a snowman in a photo from an earlier post.

Number 9:
Feeding Wild Animals: Squirrel Man Calls To His Friends
looks at the problems of over-population, habituation to humans, and disease that may be caused by feeding urban wildlife. But the story also observes the profound pleasure and connection to nature that many people derive from the activity.  Does the pleasure balance the harm?

Number 8:
The Burry Man, The Burry Dog and Burdock
is a personal favorite. After an unpleasant encounter with burrs in Riverside Park (the dog was covered in them), I researched burdock, and found the bizarre annual British ritual of the burry man. Check out the story for more than you ever wanted to know about burrs along with photos of a burr-encrusted dog and the marvelous real-life burry man.

Number Seven:
Saint John the Divine: A Secret Garden in Morningside Heights
is a photo essay of one of my favorite neighborhood spots in the glory of spring bloom. Free-roaming peacocks, bronze animals and more: read the story and plan a visit.

Number Six:
Whales in New York City
details the thrilling return of whales to the waters of New York, including the presence of a group of 30 to 50 fin whales just past the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge.

Check back on January 31st – tomorrow!  – for the top five stories of the year.

Fall is Coming

October 4, 2011

How do I know? I read the signs of the city.

Wall sitters wear long sleeves.

Thinning trees let the river peep through.

The dog is a walking seed dispensary,

from his head

to his tail

Sparrows in camo poke around in the underbrush.

Fall flowers abound.

Art work surprises. (AM:PM. To me, that means: NOW.)

Berries delight.

But hold on a minute, do you see that burr on the left, pushing its way into the photograph?  That bad burr?

Oh no, not a burr cluster!

Don’t let me get started on burrs.  As the poor dog knows all too well, being a seed dispensary is one thing, being a burdock mule is quite another.

A cyber-friend, Tricia Vita, who tracks all things Coney Island on her wonderful blog, Amusing the Zillion, tells me that the roots of burdock are edible.  She refers me to a recipe with photos and claims that Marumi Restaurant on LaGuardia Place makes the best burdock in a dish called Gobo. Hmm.  Dining on the dog’s nemesis seems like fine revenge.

But I digress.  Burrs will do that to a person.  Where was I? Yes, signs of approaching autumn.

The peacocks have lost their tail feathers

and the man on the street is wearing autumn brown.

Strangely, rumor has it temperatures will be up near 80 degrees again this weekend. Well, maybe the hula hoopers of summer can have one last go before they lose their midriffs to an accumulation of sweaters and jackets.

Enjoy.

The Burry Man, The Burry Dog, and Burdock

October 18, 2010

The Burry Man sips whiskey through a straw. Photo by Homer Sykes, 1971

Starting in late August, burrs rank high on the Official List of Naturally Occurring Seasonal Aggravations. A recent light-hearted walk along Riverside Park’s upper path turned suddenly burry when Esau, in hot pursuit of temptation-in-a-squirrel-suit, dived into a low tangle of underbrush and emerged looking like the Burry Man of the British Isles.

The Burry Man and his attendants

For more about the Burry Man, including his origins and family relations (among them,  The Green Man, Poison Ivy, Robin Hood, army snipers and Sasquatch) click here.

But first, the Burry Dog … and his burrs.

A few remaining eyebrow burrs

In a matter of seconds, Esau had amassed at least 50 burrs from his ears to his tail. While some burrs operated alone, many clumped together into giant burry conglomerates.

Burr cartel takes hind leg by storm

I de-burred the pads of Esau’s little hairy feet, but the corporate burrs either resisted removal or broke apart into tiny spiked seedlets that clung to my fingertips and buried themselves beneath Esau’s fur.  We abandoned our walk and headed home, where Esau submitted reluctantly to scissors.

Elvis's Army buzz is in Esau's future.

The experience left me wondering: what’s the deal with burrs, anyway? Why do they cling with such persistence to pants legs, hair, fur and shoes?  Where do they come from and what do they want?

Burdock in bloom

Riverside Park’s burrs are seeds of the burdock plant, a non-native – some might say, invasive – species of thistle from across the pond.  Do not be fooled by the pretty purple flower. Burdock has an evil plan, and you and your dog are part of it.

What burdock wants is to populate new territory with its progeny.  But how?

Think about it.  You’re a burdock seed. You need to get away from your overcrowded home and make your own way in the world.  But you have no legs. You have no wings.  You have no car, and no money for a Greyhound ticket.  How are you going to get out of Dodge?

The answer is simple: Hitchhike.

Going my way?

“But how?” you protest. “I didn’t evolve a thumb.”

True. But you did evolve nasty little hooks that allow you to attach yourself to any furry, woolly or hairy animal that happens to brush by you.  You will use that poor sucker’s mobility to move yourself out into the world.

Traveling on an animal’s exterior is  called epizoochory and is a fairly unusual method of seed dispersal, used by only 5% of plants.  Far more common is endozoochory, in which seeds travel inside an animal by being eaten and excreted. This is, in my nonscientific opinion, a much more harmonious method that benefits both plant and animal.  I pity wild animals with massive burrs entangled in their fur and no fingers or scissors to free themselves.

Other common methods of seed dispersal include wind, water and – I kid you not – “ballistics,” in which the plant itself expels the seed.  That’s for a future post.  But before we look at exploding plants, be sure to click below for facts, lore and video on …

THE BURRY MAN.

The Burry Man, The Burry Dog and Burdock is part of the Carnival of Evolution #29. Visit the C of E for wonderful posts on evolution by real live scientists. (We’re not sure how Out Walking the Dog slipped into the carnival, but we like the company.)


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,244 other followers

%d bloggers like this: