I love when I know the exact word to describe something, whether that “something” is an emotion, a color, taste, or plant part. To help you feel more confident in the words of the botanical world, I’m starting this Botanical Alphabet series. It may or may not be published in exact alphabetical order.

bur: a seed, fruit, or other seed dispersal unit that has hooks or teeth for sticking to fur or clothing for dispersal

If you have a dog, and have ever gone hiking with said dog, you are probably very familiar with the burs in the photo. They belong to the burdock plant; this particular one is Arctium minus, or lesser burdock, but there is also an Arctium lappa, the greater burdock. As near as I can tell, the major difference between the two is size (though there are some slight differences in the inflorescence and leaves as well). Regardless of which specific burdock you’re looking at, the burs are the focus here. The hooks on these burs, and their tenacious grip on a dog’s fur, were the inspiration behind Velcro.

So, are they bothersome? For sure. Do they do their job of helping seeds get from one place to another? Yes, indeed. Can you use them in place of Velcro? Quite possibly, though I’ve never tried it myself. If you try, let me know how it goes.