top of page

teasel (Dipsacus fullonum)




















Fuller's teasel
Fuller's teazle
wild teasel
common teazle
card teasel
common teasel
venuscup teasel


Dipsacus fullonum L. ssp. fullonum
Dipsacus fullonum L. ssp. sylvestris (Huds.) Clapham
Dipsacus sylvestris Huds.


CONFIRMATION STATUS: Pending confirmation.


TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name of teasel is

Dipsacus fullonum L.


NATIVE STATUS: Introduced, United States and Canada.




Habit: This introduced biennial plant consists of a low rosette of basal

leaves during the first year. These basal leaves are up to 12" long and 3"

across, oblanceolate, and crenate. During the second year, teasel develops

stems with opposite leaves, becoming 2½-–6' tall; it branches occasionally

and is rather lanky. The hairless stems are pale green to reddish green;

they have scattered white prickles and flat longitudinal ridges.


Leaves: The opposite leaves are up to 12" long and 3" across; they are

green, yellowish green, or reddish green, lanceolate to linear-lanceolate, ascending to spreading, and rather stiff in texture. Their margins are

smooth, slightly prickly, or irregularly toothed. On the upper surface of

each leaf, there is a white central vein, while on the lower surface this

vein has stout prickles. The lower opposite leaves are sessile, while the

upper opposite leaves are perfoliate or clasping. All leaves are hairless.


Flowers: Each upper stem terminates in a stout spike of flowers up to 4"
long and 1½" across; the long flowering stalk is naked and prickly. Initial-

ly, each floral spike is ovoid in shape, but it later elongates and becomes
oblongoid. At the base of each floral spike, there are several linear bracts
up to 6" long that curve upward, surrounding the spike. These bracts have
scattered prickles on their sides and undersides. Narrow tubular flowers
and their buds are densely crowded together all around the spike. These
flowers begin to bloom in the middle of the spike, but later they bloom in
separate rings toward the top and bottom of the spike. The corolla of each
flower is narrowly tubular and about ½" long; it has 4 outer lobes that are
small and rounded. The corolla is usually pale purple or lavender toward
the outer lobes, but it is white toward the base. Each flower has 4 exerted
stamens with white filaments and pale purple or lavender anthers. The
calyx is tiny and insignificant. At the base of each flower, there is a bract
originating from the receptacle that is straight and about the same length
as the flower. This bract is usually pale green, stiff, and linear in shape.
However, the bracts of the receptacle toward the apex of the floral spike
are significantly longer than the flowers. Like the flowers, these bracts are
densely crowded all around the floral spike, providing it with a pincushion-
like appearance after the flowers have withered away. After the blooming
period, the entire plant gradually turns brown; the stalks and floral spikes
persist through the winter.


Fruit/Seeds: Each flower is replaced by a ridged 4-angled achene that is irregularly bullet-shaped and up to ¼" long.


Roots: The root system consists of a stout taproot.


REGENERATION PROCESS: Teasel propogates itself by reseeding.


HABITAT TYPES: It was introduced from Eurasia. Habitats include
mesic prairies (especially cemetery prairies), degraded grassy meadows,
savannas, woodland borders, pastures and abandoned fields, rough grass-
lands, hedgerows, thickets, landfills, roadsides including road verges, and
waste areas. Teasel is an introduced species that can invade high quality
prairies and savannas. It is difficult to eliminate from such habitats. Teasel
also adapts readily to disturbed habitats. It thrives in areas where heavy
soils have been disturbed.


SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Teasel prefers full or partial sun, mesic

conditions, and mildly acid to alkaline soil containing loam or clay-loam.

The leaves are occasionally bothered by powdery mildew.


SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: The blooming period occurs from mid-
summer into fall and typically lasts about 2 months for a colony of plants.


GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Teasel is found throughout much of the

United States. It has not been recorded in the extreme southeastern portion (Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina) nor in Maine or the Canadian mari-

time provinces. The only other states not reporting Dipsacus fullonum are Louisiana, Minnesota, and North Dakota. Also, the three prairie provinces

of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta have not reported its occurrance, although British Columbia has. It does not occur in the northern territories.




IMPORTANCE AND USES: The nectar of the flowers attracts bumble

bees and other long-tongued bees, green metallic bees (Agapostemon spp.),

bee flies, butterflies, and skippers. Green metallic Bees also collect pollen.

The caterpillars of the Papaipema arctivorens (northern burdock borer

moth) bore through the stems of Dipsacus spp. (Teasels). Mammalian herb-

ivores shun the tough prickly foliage of teasel; even in overgrazed pastures,

cattle nibble on the outer tips of the leaves and little else. Except for flower-visiting insects, the ecological value of this introduced species to wildlife is



Teasels earn their name as the spiky flower heads were used to comb wool-

len cloth, to 'tease' out the fibres prior to spinning (from the Old English

teasan, meaning to tease). The heads of fuller's teasel (Dipsacus sativus)

have curved spines; they were also used to raise the pile, or 'nap' of cloth.

In horticulture, the dried floral spikes and their stalks are used in dried

flower arrangements. In the past, the floral spikes and stalks were used as material in funereal wreaths, which were placed alongside the gravestones

of the deceased. This is one of the reasons why teasel occurs in cemetery



During the eighteenth century, the water collected by the leaves of teasels

was thought to remove freckles. It has also been used to soothe sore eyes.

The roots have been used to treat warts, sores, and other skin problems.



Back to Inventory of Herb/Forb Families and Species

Home Page

Park Activities

   Calendar of Events
Volunteer Programs

   Park Regulations

Sky Meadows Park
   Visiting Park

   Virtual Tours

Crooked Run Valley

   Historic District

   Architecture Sites

   Mt. Bleak

   Historical Events

   Park History


Special Projects

   Blue Bird

   Biodiversity Survey



Home Page

Nature Guide






















bottom of page