officinale L. 1, upper part of plant; 2, leaf from
lower part of stem; 3, seed pod. Biennial, with mousy odor,
reproducing by seeds and from thick, black roots. Stems erect, ridged,
leafy; covered with short, soft hairs. Leaves in a rosette the first
year, narrow and tapered (especially the upper ones) in the second year;
petioles absent, leaves rounded at base, sometimes clasping, softly hairy.
Flowers in racemes, nearly without bracts, with 5 dull red petals.
Fruits grouped into 4 nutlets about 1/4 inch (6 mm) long, that separate
when ripe. The flat outer surfaces of the nutlets are bristly, and they
cling to clothing and the fleece of sheep. The top of each nutlet is flat
with a scar on one side near base. Found in pastures and wasteland,
frequently on gravelly, somewhat alkaline soils.