Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum)


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Originally uploaded by bill kralovec

I photographed this huge specimen of Teasel on a roadside near Obrenovac, Serbia on August 9, 2009. This biennial plant is found on roadsides throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia. It likes wet areas and is an important source of seeds for birds. 

From the Conservation Volunteers of Northern Ireland web site:

As with many of our native wildflowers, teasel is known by many different names. The first part of its scientific name ‘Dipsacus‘ derives from Greek and means ‘to thirst’. This name was given to this plant because of the way rainwater collects at the base of leaves, where the leaf and the stem together form a little bowl. This is also the reason why Romans called it ‘Venus’s basin’ and why early Christians in Ireland called it Mary’s basin’. The second part of its botanical name ‘fullonum‘ is derived from the term ‘a fuller’. Fuller is the old name for someone who used teasel to comb out wool. Therefore in some places teasel is also known by the name ‘brush and comb’. Furthermore the Irish name Lus an Fhucadora translates as ‘Fuller’s Herb’. In addition another name is ‘Johnny-prick-the-finger’, due to its sharp spiky form. Today a cultivated variety of teasel is still grown for use in the textile industry. It has hooks on the ends of the spikes, and is used in the manufacture of cashmere and velour fabrics. Teasel is also named the herbal ‘fracture healer’ to denote its ability to help heal broken bones and sinews. As a liver and kidney tonic, Teasel provides nutrients to maintain strong bones, sinews and cartilage. In Chinese medicine, this herb is also used for promoting energy and blood circulation. Moreover an ointment produced from the roots of this plant was traditionally used to cure warts.

In the flowering season the plant is visited by butterflies who sip on the nectar. Each individual flower in the flower head (approximately 2000 per head) produces a seed. After the seeds have formed in autumn the plant starts to die, but the dried stems and seed heads will still be around all winter. Despite the fact that the head is well protected by its spikiness, some animals such as goldfinches do manage to get through, and for them it is an important food source over the winter month. The dead adult plants leave a relatively large area of bare ground, formerly occupied by their own basal leaves, that new plants in the following year readily occupy. But seeds may also have the capacity to be water-dispersed, which may allow seeds to be dispersed over longer distances.

 

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