Teasels

Small Teasel Common Teasel Common Teasel Cut-leaved Teasel

What are they?

The teasels once formed a part of their own family, the Dipsacaceae, but more recently have been moved into a larger honeysuckle family (Caprifoliaceae). Along with the scabiouses, they are part of a group of plants that resemble members of the daisy family (Asteraceae) in that they have small, tubular-shaped flowers that open into lobes at the mouth and which are densely arranged in compound heads. Indeed, the difference between these plants and the Asteraceae is based on tiny details of the number of anthers in each flower (five for Asteraceae and four for teasels/scabiouses) and the presence of a tubular epicalyx (an extra layer of fused bracts) around the base of each flower in teasels/scabiouses. These plants are biennials, forming a basal rosette of leaves in their first year which then overwinter and produce a flowering stem in their second year. These then form seeds and die.

Teasels are well known to many people for their use in the textiles industry, as well as for providing food for songbirds and even as Christmas decorations.

Where are they found?

Common Teasel is a native of a winde range of often rather rank, grassland habitats on roadsides, riverbanks and on rough ground. Small Teasel is a more choosy plant, typically found in shady lanes and damp woodland edge. So habitat can be useful in determining what species you have.

Identification

The basic arrangement of small flowers packed together into a rounded head and encased in spiny bracts is typical of this group. Identification pointers to check include the colour of the flowers, the overall shape of the flowerhead and the appearance of the leaves.



Common Teasel      Dipsacus fullonum

Native. Widespread and common throughout much of our region, particularly on heavier clay soils as well as on the clayey dyke and river banks of Fenland. Flowers July to August. Leaves with heavily corrugated surfaces and dotted with spines that have swollen, white bases. The midrib has a line of spines along the underside of the leaf and the leaf pairs encircle the stem at their bases and often hold pools of water in them. The flowers are pale purplish-pink and open in a ring which starts at the base of the flowerehad and moves progressivley upwards.

Common Teasel Common Teasel Common Teasel Common Teasel
Habit
Flowers
Flowers
Leaves
Common Teasel Common Teasel Common Teasel Common Teasel
Leaf bases
Leaf surface
Seedheads
Seedhead


Cut-leaved Teasel      Dipsacus laciniatus

Introduced from mainland Europe as a garden ornamental and perhaps occasionally accidentally as a contaminant of imported grass seed. Once recorded from Suffolk where it didn't persist, but an established colony exists on roadside verges and field edges at Southery, West Norfolk. Flowers July to August. Leaves are similar to those of Common Teasel, but upper leaves become progressively more deeply cut along their margins. Flowers white with pale pink anthers.

Cut-leaved Teasel Cut-leaved Teasel Cut-leaved Teasel
Habit
Flowers
Flowers
Cut-leaved Teasel Cut-leaved Teasel Cut-leaved Teasel
Basal leaves
Leaf
Leaf


Small Teasel      Dipsacus pilosus

Native. Found in shady lanes, ditch sides and on woodland edge on heavier soils. Uncommon but widespread and can form sizeable colonies where it does occur. Flowers July to August. Leaves ovate with roughly toothed margins and usually two smaller leaflets at the base. Flowerheads much smaller and more globular than those of our other teasels and with white flowers.

Small Teasel Small Teasel Small Teasel Small Teasel
Habit
Habit
Flower buds
Flowers
Small Teasel Small Teasel Small Teasel Small Teasel
Leaf
Leaf
Seedhead
Seedhead