TEASEL - Dipsacus fullonum

Teasel - Dipsacus fullonum seed heads in winter
Teasel - Dipsacus fullonum
Teasel - Dipsacus fullonum, otherwise known as wild teasel or Fuller's teasel is an ornamental herbaceous plant with an upright habit grown for its ability to attract seed eating birds. However its is perhaps best known for its ornamental dried flower heads which are used in floristry. Fuller's teasel differs from wild teasel having stouter, and somewhat recurved spines on the seed heads. It is actually a cultivated variety which was once widely used in textile processing. The dried flower heads were employed as  a natural comb for cleaning, aligning and raising the nap on fabrics, particularly wool.

Native England, and also found to a lesser extent in Eurasia and North Africa, teasel is a herbaceous biennial with prickly stems and leaves, but it is best known for its large, ovoid flower heads which can be between 4–10 cm long and 3–5 cm wide on top of a basal whorl of spiny bracts. Under favourable conditions teasel can reach an overall height of between 1–2.5 metres.  The first true flowers appear in July and August, emerging in a belt around the middle of the oval flowerhead, and then open sequentially toward the top and bottom of the flower head. This then creates two narrow belts of blooms as flowering progresses. Small seeds 4–6 mm long maturing in mid-autumn and are an important winter food resource for a number of seed-eating birds, notably the European goldfinch.

It is a robust species capable of surviving in a wide variety of habitats, and commonly found in damp grassland and field edges, or on disturbed ground, such as roadside verges and waste grounds. Unfortunately this has also caused it became a pest species in the Americas, southern Africa, Australia and New Zealand where it is often considered to be a noxious weed. For best effect grow teasel in moist or moist but well-drained soil in full sun to partial shade. However it will tolerate shade and heavy clay, and chalky soils. Once established it will self-seed readily.

Image credit - Eaden horticulture

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