Dipsacus laciniatus (cut-leaved teasel, wild teasel, Fuller’s teasel, gypsy-combs)

description: perennial

place of origin: Eurasia

urban habitat: commonly found along highways, railroads, waterways, in drainage ditches, urban meadows, and disturbed sites; thrives in full sun and partial shade and can tolerate a variety of soil types including those that contain high salinity and oil.

ecological function: disturbance-adapted colonizer; food and habitat for wildlife.

history: Dipsacus laciniatus is currently most commonly found in northeastern and midwestern US, although it has also been seen in Oregon and Colorado. Both Common and cutleaf teasel is reported to have been deliberately introduced into North America as early as 1700. The flower head was widely used in textile processing as a natural comb for cleaning and raising the nap on fabrics. By the 20th century, they were replaced by metal cards, which were uniform and did not require replacement. The plant has been used for medicinal purposes, purportedly containing antibiotic properties and for treatment of Lyme disease and warts. The flowering stalks have also been used to create memorial wreathes for gravesites. The spread of both species along highways is encouraged by roadside mowing which assists in spreading its seed. Several US states consider both the common and cutleaf species of this plant to be a noxious weed, for its propensity to become a monoculture displacing native plant populations. The genus name Dipsacus comes from the Greek word for thirst and refers to the cup-like shape created as the leaf bases attach to the stem.