Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.

Dipsacus fullonum - Fuller's Teasel

Family: Dipsacaceae (Teasel) [E-flora]

"Dipsacus fullonum is a BIENNIAL/PERENNIAL growing to 1.8 m (6ft).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 5. It is in flower from Jul to August, and the seeds ripen from Aug to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, self.The plant is self-fertile.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil." [PFAF]

Subtaxa Present in B.C.;

"General: Biennial herb from a taproot; stems erect, stout, angled, few-branched, increasingly prickly upwards, 0.5-2.0 m tall." [IFBC-E-flora]

"Habitat / Range Moist fields, meadows and roadsides in the lowland zone; rare in SW and SC BC; introduced from Eurasia." [IFBC-E-flora]

Origin Status: Exotic [E-flora]

Other Uses

Medicinal Uses

"Teasel is little used in modern herbalism, and its therapeutic effects are disputed[254]. Traditionally it has been used to treat conditions such as warts, fistulae (abnormal passages opening through the skin) and cancerous sores[254]. The plant has a folk history of use in the treatment of cancer, an ointment made from the roots is used to treat warts, wens and whitlows[4, 218]." [PFAF]

HERB. Standard Infusion, 2-4 ounces to 4X a day. [Moore(1995)]

Dipsacus fullonum L. - Inulin, scabioside.99 - Diuretic, sweat-inducing and stomachsoothing properties. [CRNAH]

Medicinal Usage

"Activities (Wild Teasel) — Diaphoretic (f; WOI); Diuretic (f; WOI)." [HMH Duke]

"Indications (Wild Teasel) — Cancer (f; JLH); Cancer, penis (f; JLH); Dermatosis (f; PH2); Eczema (f; PH2); Felon (f; JLH); Fever (f; WOI); Fistula (f; PH2); Inflammation (f; JLH); Rhagades (f;HHB); Rheumatism (f; PH2); Wart (f; HHB; JLH); Water Retention (f; WOI); Wen (f; JLH); Whitlow (f; JLH); Wound (f; PH2)." [HMH Duke]

"Contraindications, Interactions, and Side Effects (Wild Teasel) — Not covered (AHP; KOM). None reported at designated dosages (not given) (PH2)" [HMH Duke]

Folk Use

"The dried stalks were used in Ireland as a sort of thatch, or at least they would be laid at right angles on the purlins, before the grass scaws and then the sods were put on the roof (E E Evans. 1942).... In Somerset people used to cut open the heads, where they would often find a worm. Any odd number of these worms, carefully put away, was believed to charm away sickness (Brill)." [DPL Watts]

"Rather more widespread was the belief in the efficiency of water which collected in the cups formed by the fusing together of the plant’s opposite leaves, “so fastened that they hold dew and raine water in manner of a little bason” (Gerard), water that was much prized for cosmetic use; Culpeper knew about this, though he described it as the distilled water of the leaves, used by women “to preserve their beauty”. Leicestershire girls washed their faces in this water, in order to make themselves more beautiful (Billson), and the folk use was known in Wales, too – there it was said to be a remedy for freckles (Trevelyan). It was said also to cure warts on the hands (Curtis). There was yet another use for this water, for sore eyes (Dyer. 1881); in fact, teasel has been recommended for diseases of the eyes since Anglo-Saxon times." [DPL Watts]

"Teasel was used in some parts as a remedy for ague, or malaria (Black). The Gentleman’s Magazine for 1867 mentions a remedy where the patient had to gather some teasels and carry them about with him. But the remedy lay apparently in what was found inside the teasel – the small worms that we have met already. In Lyte’s translation of Dodoens, 1586, he says “the small wormes that are founde within the knops of teasels do cure and heale the quartaine ague, to be worne or tied about the necke or arme” (see Hulme. 1895). Gerard, though, was very scathing about the efficacy of this." [DPL Watts]

"According to a deep-seated folk belief going back at least to Pliny the Elder, the rain-water or dew collecting in the natural cup between the connate leaves of Dipsacus fullonum (known as the ‘bath of Venus’ or the ‘lip of Venus’) had certain healing properties. Sundew and lady’s-mantle, similarly endowed with droplets of moisture of mysterious origin, were treated with special respect for much the same reason.Teasel’s version of ‘holy water’ was thought particularly beneficial when used as an eye lotion (Somerset,105 Sussex,106 Denbighshire107) but it is also recorded as used in Wales for ridding the complexion of freckles.109" [MPFT]

"The heads of the plant were formerly in demand as well in ‘various parts of England’109 (and sold in London in Covent Garden market110) as a certain cure for the ague. Three, five or seven—note the magical odd numbers—of the thin ‘worms’ found in these in the autumn were sealed up in a quill or a bag and worn against the pit of the stomach or some other part of the person. More mundane than those two uses was boiling the root and applying it to abscesses (in Suffolk111) or to warts (in Wiltshire112). The absence of records from Scotland or Ireland is noteworthy." [MPFT]

Cloth Raising

"(Dipsacus fullonum) A plant of prime importance in the cloth-making industry, the uses of which are mirrored in the names Fuller’s Teasel and Burler’s Teasel. Fulling is the process of raising the nap on woollen cloth, to give a softer feel to the fabric, and a burl is a knot in wool, so to burl is to remove these knots. Both processes were achieved by use of the dried flower heads of teasel, for “no substitute for their gentle action on the finest cloths has been found” (Ryder). The teasels were set in a wooden frame, usually known as a handle, but sometimes called a card. Hence the name Card Thistle, but ‘card’ comes from the Latin carduus, which means a thistle – so the pleonasm is revealed." [DPL Watts]

"The cultivated variety, the Fuller's Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum) has burrs with stiffer spines (the bracts) [than wild teasel (Dipsacus sylvestris)] . These have hooked points, and an elasticity which makes them superior to substitutes such as wire brushes for raising cloth. The seeds are sown in April, and the seedlings are thinned to give plants four inches apart. This process used to be known as 'slinging' and was carried out with a long narrow spade with a curved handle, the plants being then left one foot apart. Today the plants are transplanted in autumn, but only the upper part of the parnsip-like tap-root is taken, being removed with a tool known as a 'teasel splitter'. ... Teasels form part of a crop rotation and are followed by wheat." [Ryder, M. L. (1969)]

"Some accounts say the plants flower in May or June, others say July, the flowers being mauve,and the fruits or burrs are ready for harvesting in August or September. Each head has to be cut separately with a short curved knife. This is made from the blade of an old scythe, and is looped to the cutter's wrist. Protective gloves must be worn, and at one time a waterproof smock was worn to guard clothing from the water that collects at the base of the leaves. .... Such an overall is necessary also to prevent the burrs from 'snagging' wool clothing, and as a protection against the sticky sap that exudes from the cut stems." [Ryder, M. L. (1969)]

"The cut is made about eight inches below the head, and the largest heads near the top were known as 'kings'. Medium-sized ones were termed 'maidens' and the smallest ones 'buttons'. Large heads are bundled into batches of forty and smaller ones into batches of fifty. These are first hung on old plant stems for two or three days. The main drying is carried out on poles,to each of which is attached about twenty bundles. This takes several weeks to complete, and used to be carried out in open sheds built of teasel stalks known as 'helms'." [Ryder, M. L. (1969)]

"The burrs are prepared in the mill by cutting off the calyx, and are fitted into long narrow frames known as rods, which are then clamped into the cylindrical drums of the 'teasel gig'.The gig mill revolves in one direction at 120 r.p.m. and the cloth revolves more slowly in the opposite direction in contact with the teasels. The pile or nap thus raised is subsequently trimmed to a constant height by a cropping machine which resembles, and indeed was the ancestor of, the lawn mower. It is possible to vary the process by having the cloth either wet or dry, and the raising and cropping are often repeated several times. The teasels are replaced at regular intervals in the frames." [Ryder, M. L. (1969)]


"Seed - best sown in early spring in situ[115]. The seed can also be sown from February to May or from August to October. All but the earlier sowings can be made outdoors." [PFAF]


"Succeeds in most soils[1] but prefers clay[17]. Prefers a deep rich soil[169]. Requires a sunny position[169]. A good butterfly plant[24]. This is the true wild species of teasel, its bracts are too flexible to be used for combing cloth[17]. The flowering heads are much prized by flower arrangers because they keep their colour almost indefinitely when dried[7]." [PFAF]



  1. [E-flora], Accessed Jan 17, 2015
  2. [PFAF], Accessed Jan 17, 2015
  3. Ryder, M. L. (1969). Teasel Growing for Cloth Raising. Folk Life, 7(1), 117–119. doi:10.1179/043087769798241654

Dipsacus Sp. - Teasel

"Biennial, armed with prickles or spines ± throughout. Stem: erect, generally < 2 m, stout, few-branched, rough-hairy. Leaf: generally < 5 dm, entire or toothed. Inflorescence: generally ± cylindric; involucre bracts unequal, linear, receptacle bract ending in a spine. Flower: calyx limb cup-shaped, persistent; corolla generally lavender (white), tube long, lobes unequal; stamens 4. Fruit: 4-angled, hairy.
± 15 species: Europe, western Asia, Africa. (Greek: thirst, from leaf bases that in some species hold water)
Unabridged references: [Ferguson & Brizicky 1965 J Arnold Arbor 46:362–365]" [Jepson]

Local Species;

  1. Dipsacus fullonum - Fuller's Teasel [E-flora]

Dipsacus asper

Teazle - Dipsacus silvestris

"Medicinal Parts: The medicinal part is the whole flowering plant with root"
"Production: Common Teazle root is the underground part of Dipsacus silvestris."
Compounds: "Iridoide monoterpenes: including cantleyoside, loganin, sweroside, sylvestroside III and IV Caffeic acid derivatives: including chlorogenic acid"
"Unproven Uses: Teazle is used externally for small wounds, fistulae, eczema and as a rub in the treatment of rheumatism."
"Mode of Administration: Teazle is used externally in alcoholic extracts." [PDR]


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