Genus of the Week
Week of December 21-27
This page has been created for people who want to learn more about plants, especially in the
context of their taxonomy (Latin names, etc.). This is by no means an exhaustive list of
all available Web resources for a particular genus.
If you like this page, you should also visit the Land of the Glandular Trichomes
, a microscopic look at plants in the Lamiaceae family.
This week's genus:
Number of Species: at least 4
Root: From the Greek "dipsa", meaning to thirst. This is a reference to the cup-like
shape formed by the whorl of bracts surrounding the stem of the species D. laciniatus.
The genus Dipsacus, often known by the common name "Teasel", has an inflorescence very
similar to another genus of the Asteridae, the Thistle (Cirsium sp.). While the flowers
of certain species are often used in dried arrangements, the flowerheads of Dipsacus are
best known for their use in the wool industry, where they are a natural and flexible instrument
used to "raise the nap", i.e. -tease- apart the fibers of wool cloth (This is how the genus got
its common name). The roots of some species have also been used by herbalists to treat such
ailments as warts, cankers and jaundice. Often species of this genus are considered to be weedy
or invasive; D. sylvestris is one species that has become an aggressive invader in some
parts of North America, having been introduced from Europe centuries ago for working with wool.
Here are a few links to images and descriptions of different Dipsacus species:
- The University of Washington has a great photo of a cluster of
D. fullonum (Fuller's Teasel) in their Medicinal Herb Garden. The University of
Wisconsin has 2 excellent
close-ups of this species, including one which clearly shows the double band of flowers
which forms around the inflorescence.
- The caterpillars of the Spanish Fritillary depend on D. ferox for food. Click
here to see a photo of this
butterfly on a Teasel in Portugal.
- Read more about the
herbal properties of Teasel in the Herbal Library from the Australian site HealthLink.
- The Illinois Nature Preserves Commission has prepared a
Vegetation Management Guideline for Dipsacus sp., which are considered problem
weeds in that state.
- Grieve, M. (C. F. Leyel, ed.). A Modern Herbal. London, Tiger Books International: 1973.
- Heywood, V.H., ed. Flowering Plants of the World. New York, Oxford University Press: 1993.
- Neiring, William A. and Nancy C. Olmstead., eds. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers, Eastern Region. Alfred A. Knopf, New York: 1979.
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