Dipsacus fullonum
Common Name: common teasel
Type: Annual
Family: Caprifoliaceae
Native Range: Europe, Asia
Zone: 3 to 8
Height: 4.00 to 6.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.50 feet
Bloom Time: July to September
Bloom Description: Pink to purple
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Flower: Showy
Attracts: Butterflies

Culture

Easily grown in moderately fertile, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. This is a prickly biennial weed that easily escapes cultivation and naturalizes into adjacent areas by self-seeding. Each plant can produce up to 40 flowerheads in the second year, with each flowerhead containing 900 or more seeds. Common teasel has been declared a noxious weed in Colorado, Iowa, Missouri and New Mexico.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Dipsacus fullonum, commonly known as common teasel, is a biennial that typically produces a rosette of long, pointed, oblanceolate, dark green basal leaves (to 12” long) in the first year followed by prickly upright flower stems which rise from the basal rosette to 6’ tall in the second year topped in a July-to-September bloom by stiff, spiny, cone-shaped, thistle-like, terminal flowerheads (to 3-4” tall) adorned with pinkish-white to pale lavender to pinkish purple flowers, each flower being subtended by long spiny bracts. The bases of paired stem leaves embrace the stem forming a basin which can collect rain water. Fruits are 4-angled achenes. Plants die after flowering and setting seed.

Common teasel is native to damp grassland and woodland areas of Europe, Eastern Asia and Northern Africa where it is an important winter food source for some birds. It was first introduced into North America in the 1700s, but has now naturalized, primarily in disturbed areas, roadsides, waste areas, pond margins, pastures, grasslands, meadows, and abandoned fields, throughout most of the U.S. plus some parts of Canada (Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia).

D. sylvestris is a synonym.

Genus name comes from the Greek dipsa meaning thirst (flowering stems are clad with paired leaves whose united bases form small basins which typically collect rain water).

Specific epithet of fullonum and a sometimes used common name of fuller’s teasel both indicate this plant was once used in “fulling” (process of shrinking and weaving cloth after weaving). Early wool manufacturers attached the seed heads (covered with stiff, hooked points) to a spindle for the purpose of teasing (combing) cloth to raise the nap.

Additional common names for this plant include Adam’s Flannel, Church Broom, Prickly Back, and Water Thistle.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Invasive spreader.

Garden Uses

May not be legally planted or grown in States where it is listed as a noxious weed. It is an otherwise interesting plant for a wild garden in States where it may be legally grown but only under circumstances where its invasive tendencies do not prove problematic.