What is teasel?

Teasel is the common name for plants within the genus Dipsacus which contains approximately 15 species. Native to Europe, Asia and northern Africa, they are a group of tall herbaceous biennial plants easily identified by their prickly stem and leaves, and large, ovoid flowerheads. The dried flower heads are a popular choice in dried-flower arrangements, while the seeds are an important winter food resource for many seed eating birds, notably the European goldfinch.

Teasel dried flower heads
Arguable the most widely grown species is Dipsacus fullonum, from which is derived the notable cultivar 'Fuller's Teasel' - Dipsacus fullonum Sativus Group; syn. D. sativus. Fuller's Teasel was formerly used in the textile industry as a natural comb for cleaning, aligning and raising the nap on cotton and woolen fabrics. The common name teasel relates to the 'teasing of the fabric fibres'.

In their native habitat, teasels are commonly found in rough grassland, wood margins, thickets, hedgerows, roadsides and waste ground. They are particularly robust capable of thriving on a wide range of soil types. They are happy in full sun to partial shade and will perform best on light, well drained soils. However they will also tolerate heavy clay, chalky, acidic, and alkaline soils.

Due to the import of Fuller's Teasel for textile processing, and from crop seeds being contaminated with teasel seeds, they have become naturalised in many temperate climates. Such is its adaptability, teasel is now considered an invasive species in the United States, southern Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

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