Saturday, June 21, 2008

Teasel: Dipsacus fullonum

For the first time in this garden, teasel is standing erect in the mid-morning sun, translucent, glowing with light. This is a beautiful plant for catching the light; its thin, rigid leaves imitate stained glass. And the dramatic flower heads are at their best in early summer, when the tissues are still fresh and bright green.

Teasel is listed by 46 states as a noxious weed and it certainly can be. If I'm not careful to cut off the seed heads before they mature in the fall, I'll have hundreds, if not thousands, of seedlings next year. Should they go to seed, it's easy to stomp them into oblivion as they germinate, but that's a risky business. You do not want to let this plant get out of control.

Teasel apparently was imported into the U.S. in the early to mid-19th century for use in wool processing. Here is an informative link.

To my eye, teasel looks best used as an occasional accent. Large stands lose something because the plant's unique, upward-reaching structure and reflective qualities are lost when too many compete for attention. They also become rather scraggly by fall, so I recommend cutting them to the ground before seeds mature. (Use gloves; they are covered with sharp prickels.) You can save one or two seed heads for limited planting.

Teasel is a biennial, so in the first year you will see only low rosettes with prickly leaves, then in the second year they soar to six or seven feet. The plant dies after making seed, so you will need to sow seed every year to assure a continuing presence in the garden.

If you are not sure you can be vigilant, do not plant teasel.


  1. Now THAT's native plant gardening! Thanks! I'm newish to central NY and love all the things that grow on the roadsides but that so few people cultivate. We have a lot of teasel. Saw you on Ellis Hollow (my neighbor).

  2. I like roadside plants. Teasel is really pretty this time of year but I learned several years ago to get rid of it before it goes to seed. Another really pretty plant is Eupatorium rugosum. I let it reseed one year and I'm still trying to get it under control.

    Do you mean you're physically a neighbor of Craig (Ellis Hollow)? If so, say hello.

  3. I love a teasel.
    Gorgeous pea green with slightly diaphonous leaves - like the webbing between the toes of a frog.
    I enjoy the way they die as well - in England they will stand up all year where they look magnificent in hard frost and faintly ridiculous with a little bobble hat of snow.



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