Thursday, June 30, 2011

Teasel, A Weed No More

Teasel has transitioned from weed to a plant worthy of some attention in my world.  It's not like I am going to go out and sow it willy-nilly in the garden but I do grow it every year and have for some time now, finding it rather entertaining.

Because it is a roadside weed,  people pass it by, never really looking at it normally but they do see it in my garden and are often amazed when they find out what it actually is.  Oh sure, I get some who wonder why I would bother growing it too but that's all part of the fun of it.

It was several years before I actually saw one bloom.  I was obviously not paying very close attention because the darn things grow all over the waste places along roadsides and near ditches.  When I finally did see one bloom I remember how awestruck I was.  I'm sure if anyone had seen me and been within earshot they would have thought I had lost my mind as a stood looking up babbling in amazement.  Instead of  blooming all at once the blooms begin at the middle middle of the oval shaped head/cone, progressing up and down at the same time.  Its fascinating.

It is a biennial plant forming a rosette of lance shaped leaves the first year and the flowering stems the following year.  It grows to between three and six feet tall unless it is this one in my garden.  Its more like eight feet tall.
Nearly eight feet tall.
The lance shaped leaves are fused together on the stem at their base which creates a basin where water collects when it rains creating a good watering hole for insects though some drown after falling into the water.  The Greeks called this basin Venus' Basin and in Europe it was called Mary's Basin.  Some say that water is a good cure for warts if there are dead bugs in the water and is good for an eye wash if the water is clear and clean.  I have yet to not see dead bugs in it though so stick with the wart remedy if you want to try it on something.

The leaves, branches and bracts all have short spines on them making them tricky to harvest if you forget to wear gloves. The branching each produce a cone shaped flower head at their tip.
I love the linear shaped bracts that cradel the flower head.

So why did I soften to this roadside weed...because it has too many good qualities for me to consider it any more a weed than the herbs I cultivate in my garden...and it is just a cool plant to look at.

It was used over the centuries as a medicinal herb, fell out of favor and is again being used for medicine. The dried flower cones were used to raise the nap of wool fabric back in the day in a practice known as fulling or brushing and thus the name "Fuller's Teasel" or Teasel.  The bees, blow flies and butterflies enjoy the flowers of this plant and the birds, especially Gold Finches love the seeds making it a great plant for wildlife.
Just finishing its bloom it will begin to dry and be ready for harvesting for crafting.
Teasel has long been used in dried arrangements, painted and used for seasonal decor and Christmas ornaments.  You can also create cute little hedgehogs out of them too...just remember to wear gloves, the other nickname for it is Johnny-prick-finger.

Copyright © 2011 by Patty Hicks
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  1. A garden should be a place we can go to relax, to take in the fresh air and ideally be away from anything that resembles work. Alternatively, we may view our garden as our work away from work, as sometimes the act of weeding a garden or planting new seeds can take our mind away from certain things. More than it is all also very much important to maintain your garden.

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  2. That is so true Matthew. It is amazing how the noise and hustle of the busy street I live on disappears while I am in the garden. Weeding becomes something I do because I enjoy my garden and not because it "has to be done" though indeed it does or the whole of it would soon revert back to state of natural chaos. To know how much garden one can maintain without it becoming a chore is a very important thing to determine, especially with the onset of disability or age. Letting go of what we think we need in the garden is quite the process if we desire to never see a weed. Me, I am learning to appreciate them and put up with some management as I do this Teasel.