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Common Teasel

Common TeaselPlant Description: Common teasel is a biennial member of a genus distinguished by the manner its leaves are fused around the flowering stem forming a cup that collects rainwater. Common teasel produces puckered leaves with scalloped edges in the form of a rosette during its first year of growth after which a 6-foot-tall prickly flower stem emerges. Common Teasel flower headFlowering stems are usually branched at the top and cone-shaped flower clusters form at the ends of the branches. Below each cluster and curving upward around it are several stiff bracts. In each cluster are many short bristles interspersed with individual flowers consisting of white petals united into a tube with 4 purple lobes. Stems and flowers become woody and persist through the following winter and sometimes over several seasons. Reproduction is by seeds.  Its current range is limited and includes areas in the northeastern U.S., the Pacific Coast, and southern Canada.

Common Teasel seedlingCommon teasel occurs throughout Georgia where it is found in pastures, abandoned fields, roadsides, railroads, and waste areas. The species prefers damp, coarse, fertile soils. The plant has a thick taproot and fibrous secondary roots. Flowering stems are 2 to 8 feet tall, erect, angled, furrowed, branched near the top, and prickly. The pithy stems become woody and may persist for several years. Shiny green rosette leaves have scalloped edges, scattered stout hairs on the upper surface, and are attached to the stem by way of a leaf stalk (petiole). Leaves on the flowering stem are similar to rosette leaves except they are smaller, opposite (2 leaves per node), and have short spines on the underside of the midrib. Flowers form in cone-shaped, spiny clusters. Individual flowers, which are 2/5 to 3/5 inch long, consist of white petals united into a tube with 4 purple lobes.

Common teasel blooms from July to September. The first flowers to open are located in a ring around the center of the cluster. Then, bands of flowers above and below this ring bloom simultaneously. Researchers found that leaf size predicted the onset of flowering more consistently than plant age; once leaves exceeded 5 inches, there was an 80% chance the plant would flower during the following season. Seeds usually fall within 5 feet of the mother plant. Goldfinches and blackbirds have been observed feeding on common thistle seeds, so it is possible that some seeds are dispersed by birds. An average teasel plant produces 3300 seeds. Common thistle does not survive disturbances such as cultivation.

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