Wild Teasel

Dipsacus fullonum L. ssp. fullonum

Synonyms - Dipsacus sylvestris

Family: - Dipsacaceae.


Dipsacus is from the Greek dipsa meaning thirst and refers to the water holding cup formed where the leaves join the stem.

Fullonum is from the Latin fullo meaning cloth fuller referring to the use of these plants to tease cloth.

Wild Teasel refers to the use of a closely related plant, Fullers Teasel (D. fullonum), to tease, card or raise the nap on woollen cloth.

Other names:

Card Thistle

Fuller's Teasel (USA)

Fuller's Teazle


A prickly, erect perennial or biennial to 2 m tall with a oval shaped, pin cushion seed head about 50 mm diameter.





Form a rosette.

Stipules -

Petiole - None.

Blade - Up to 500 mm long. Oblong to lanceolate, sessile, edges scalloped. Broad midrib. Upper surfaces with scattered prickles on numerous protuberances. Hooked or straight prickles along midrib on both surfaces.

Stem leaves - Lanceolate, opposite, shorter than rosette leaves, edges toothed or smooth. Bases of each pair form a cup where water collects. Toothed prickles on lower side of mid vein.


Rigid, stout, up to 2 m tall, appearing square in cross-section (ridged or angled especially on the upper stems), covered with short slightly downward curved prickles on ridges. Prickles denser beneath heads. Branches opposite.

Flower head:

Terminal and solitary at ends of branches, conical becoming cylindrical, 40-100 mm long by 30-40 mm diameter. Surrounded by narrow spiny upwardly curved unequal bracts arising form the base. Contains numerous tubular florets.


Bracts - Each flower surrounded with stiff, lance shaped bracts of varying sizes up to longer than the florets.

Ovary - Scales of the common receptacle broad based, hairy and tapering into a rigid hook.

Calyx - Cup shaped, hairy. Outer calyx is 8 ribbed.

Corolla - Pinkish-white, pink, purple or lilac, 50-120mm long, 4 lobed.

Stamens - Each with 4 stamens joined to it just below the throat of the tube.

Anthers -


Achene. Yellow to greyish-brown, rectangular, 2-5 mm long, 1-1.5 mm wide. Small rectangular appendage at one end that is shed as the fruit matures.



Fleshy yellow taproot to 750 mm deep.

Key Characters:

Spiny seed head, stems and leaves.


Life cycle:

Perennial. Reproduces by seed. Seedlings emerge after autumn rains, or at other times after soil disturbance if moisture adequate. Develop into large rosettes by spring. Flowering stems not produced until second or later years when rosettes reach a critical size. flowering stems form in spring, flowers in summer. flowers open first in a ring around middle of head, which "moves" up and down the head as subsequent flowers open. Plants die in autumn, dead stems may remain standing for months or years.


Tolerates flooding and waterlogging.


By seed.

Flowering times:

Summer in SA.

Seed Biology and Germination:

Seed remains viable for at least 6 years.

Germination is usually high in good conditions.

Germination is independent of light.

Allelopathy from English Couch reduces germination.

Vegetative Propagules:

Taproot may re shoot.


D. fullonum ssp. fullonum has straight prickles

D. fullonum ssp. sylvestris has hooked prickles


Population Dynamics and Dispersal:

Most seed falls close to the plant, though this is assisted by animals tangling in the bracts on the heads causing the stem to bend a whip back scattering seed. Spiny heads catch in wool, bags and fur for transport. Seeds float and are dispersed by water flows. Spread by contamination of machinery, produce and mud probably accounts for long distance spread.

About 800 seeds are produced in each head.

Origin and History:

Southern and eastern Europe.



Abundant on roadsides in Tasmania and in isolated patches in other states (Vic, NSW, SA).

Earliest record of the plant is from South Australia in 1870.


Mostly on neglected sites.


Subhumid temperate regions where annual rainfall is more than 750mm.


Prefers fertile and damp soils.

Plant Associations:



Formerly used for carding and teasing wool in Europe and grooming animals. The subspecies sylvestris or D. sativus was preferred because it had hooked rather than straight spines. Heads were bound together to form a brush or were mounted in frames. It was used until the 1950's before being replaced by machines.

Used in dried floral arrangements.

Used in herbal medicine and for extraction of a blue dye.

Produces a high quality honey.

In astrology it is associated with Libra.


Weed of neglected sites, roadsides, stream banks etc. Occasionally invades poorly managed pastures of moderate or high fertility and damp soil.

Spines discourage stock grazing it.


Not recorded as toxic.


Noxious weed of Victoria.

Management and Control:

Ploughing before seeding is effective providing taproot is cut well below the surface. Follow-up cultivations needed to control seedlings or regrowth from roots. Isolated plants can be manually removed providing the taproot is cut well below the surface.

2,4-D is effective in the rosette stage.


Eradication strategies:

Herbicide resistance:

Biological Control:

Related plants:

Fuller's Teazle (D. sativus) occurs mainly in SA, the bracts on inflorescence axis about same length as flowers and terminate in a stiff, recurved spine.

Plants of similar appearance:


Auld, B.A. and Medd R.W. (1992). Weeds. An illustrated botanical guide to the weeds of Australia. (Inkata Press, Melbourne). P159. Photos.

Black, J.M. (1965). Flora of South Australia. (Government Printer, Adelaide, South Australia). P803.

Lamp, C. and Collet, F. (1990). A Field Guide to Weeds in Australia. (Inkata Press, Melbourne). P413-415.

Lazarides, M. and Hince, B. (1993). CSIRO handbook of economic plants of Australia. (CSIRO, Melbourne). #453.3.

Parsons, W.T. and Cuthbertson, E.G. (1992). Noxious weeds of Australia. (Inkata Press, Melbourne). P413-415. Photos.


Collated by HerbiGuide. Phone 08 98444064 or www.herbiguide.com.au for more information.