Dipsacus fullonum

Family: Caprifoliaceae

Countries: Africa, Albania, Algeria, Austria, Balearic Islands, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, England, Europe, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lebanon, Morocco, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Russia, Sardegna, Scotland, Sicily, Spain, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Wales, Yugoslavia

Dipsacus fullonum is a biennial or perennial plant that’s found growing in the wild in a widespread area across Europe and even as far as regions approaching North West Africa.  In the UK, Dipsacus fullonum is usually known as the Teasel, but due to how far reaching this plant’s range is – I am certain that there must be countless different common names for Dipsacus fullonum.  This is where botanical names are so valuable, as they enable people from many different countries to communicate about a plant with certainty that they are all referring to exactly the same genus and species.

Dipsacus fullonum plants will grow up to around1.8m (6ft) tall, depending on the plant’s soil and situation; I’ve seen fully grown Dipsacus fullonum plants that are shorter than this, as well as plants that are taller.  Dipsacus fullonum plants can grow a little taller than this if they’re grown in bright and sunny, sheltered areas with fertile, moist but free-draining soils.  These plants are robust and self-supporting, but the Teasel’s tall ripe seed heads tend to start leaning towards the ground by springtime.

Teasels are commonly seen growing in fields, rough pasture, by the side of the road, alongside streams, and in thickets.  This is a fantastic plant to include in a wildlife garden, as Dipsacus fullonum produce flowers that are a rich source of pollen and nectar for bees, butterflies, and pollinating insects.  Teasel leaves form in pairs, part way up the plant’s stem; these leaves are joined together at their base and to the stem, forming a triangular-shaped cup that catches rainwater.  Insects are attracted to the water and many drown inside the leaves.  During autumn and winter, Goldfinches and other birds feast upon the Teasel’s long-lasting seed heads.

Dipsacus fullonum usually grows as a biennial, germinating and establishing a handsome rosette of leaves in its first year and then flowering and setting seed in its second year.  Some Dipsacus fullonum plants persist for longer and grow as a short-lived perennial, flowering again the following year.  In my Surrey garden, Dipsacus fullonum usually flowers in June and July.

Here in the UK, I’ve found that the best time to sow Dipsacus fullonum seeds is from the beginning of April until the end of May.  Sow seeds directly in the ground, where you want your plants to grow up and flower.  Beautiful as it is, Dipsacus fullonum plants are covered in sharp, piercing spines – the stems, leaves, and seed heads are all spiky!  The underside of this plant’s leaves have sharp spines all the way along the central midrib.   I would advise against growing Dipsacus fullonum near a path, patio, or doorway, due to the fact that the spines are so aggressive and can cause injuries.

Grow Dipsacus fullonum plants in a bright and sunny or partially shaded area.  These easy-going plants will flourish in almost any soil.  The plants are hardy and don’t need any special care or attention; they are drought-tolerant and very attractive.

Dipsacus fullonum make a stunning cut flower and can be used dried or fresh.  I prefer to leave my Dipsacus fullonum in the garden, where bees, butterflies, hoverflies, and other pollinating insects can enjoy the flowers and the Goldfinches can feast upon the seeds through the winter months, when food is scarce.

To see pictures and articles about plants for bees and butterflies, please click here.

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