Quick Facts

Quick facts

  • Originally from Europe and western Asia, Wild Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum) has become an agricultural and environmental weed in south-eastern Australia.
  • It is a large thistle-like herb with distinctive flower-heads subtended by long, spiny bracts.
  • Seeds are spread as contaminants wool and on agricultural produce, machinery and vehicles.
  • It competes with pasture plants, discourages grazing by livestock and invades disturbed areas of native vegetation, especially along streams.
  • It can be controlled by ploughing before seed is set and by herbicide application at the leaf rosette stage.

What Does It Look Like?

What is it?

Wild Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum) is an erect, thistle-like herb to about 2 m high. The first growth is large rosette leaves are produced at the base of the plant to 40–50 cm long and to 9–10 cm wide. From the center of the rosette a stem elongates with stem leaves that are much shorter than the rosette leaves. The ridged stems bear numerous small hard prickles. The leaves have finely-toothed edges, small prickles along the midrib on their undersides and are borne in opposite pairs along the stems.

Spectacular oval flower-heads, 2–8 cm long and 2–4 cm wide, are produced at the ends of the stem. Each flower-head consists of numerous, small, usually purplish flowers packed densely together above several stiff, narrow, spiny, upturned bracts 3–12cm long.

The seeds (strictly dry, one-seeded fruits) are 2–3mm long and 1.2–2 mm (Jeanes 1999, Parsons and Cuthbertson 2001) are produced in late summer.

For further information and assistance with identification of Wild Teasel contact the herbarium in your state or territory.

Flower colour

White, Purple, Pink

Growth form (weed type/habit)


Where it currently grows? Preferred habitat

Wild Teasel occurs in areas with an annual rainfall of more than 750 mm, favouring disturbed or neglected sites in pastures, along roadsides and on the margins of streams and lakes (Parsons and Cuthbertson 2001; Jeanes 1999; National Herbarium of Victoria 2007).

Are there similar species?

Because of its distinctive flower-heads, Wild Teasel is not likely to be mistaken for any indigenous Australian plant species or any other known weed species when in flower. However, before flowering it could possibly be seen as similar to other weedy herbs that initially produce a basal rosette of relatively large leaves. The numerous prickles on leaf midribs should assist correct identification but the prickly stems may seem similar to some thistles (Reid 2007, pers. comm.).

Why Is It A Weed?

What are its impacts?

Wild Teasel impacts natural open habitats and is a weed of riparian sites and impacts degraded pastures. It occurs on neglected sites, roadsides, streambanks, etc. in areas with an annual rainfall over 750 mm (Parsons and Cuthbertson 1992).

Agriculture: Wild Teasel sometimes invades pastures, particularly on fertile, damp soils, and this is the reason for its proclamation as a noxious weed in Victoria. The deep roots and large rosettes compete with pasture plants for moisture and nutrients as well as for light, while the spines on leaves and stems discourage grazing by livestock (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

Native ecosystems: It is a potential threat to native vegetation along streams and in wetlands (Carr et al. 1992). In dense patches, prickles on leaves and stems may cause some discomfort to humans and fauna. Competition with other plants and the prickly nature of Wild Teasel may reduce available food for fauna (Victorian Resources Online 2007). In natural communities and forms a large basal rosette of leaves in the early stages of growth. This rosette of leaves can cover a large area and shade other ground-dwelling plants nearby.

How does it spread?

Most seeds of Wild Teasel fall close to the parent plant. Some are dispersed a little further when the long bracts surrounding the flower-heads become attached to passing animals, causing the stems to bend and whip back and the seeds to be flicked out. Seeds may be spread further as contaminants on agricultural produce, machinery and vehicles. The seeds float on water enabling dispersal along streams. The spiny heads also become caught in wool (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

What is its history in Australia?

The history of introduction of Wild Teasel to Australia is not known but a Victorian Royal Commission report in 1871 listed it as having commercial potential in the wool industry (Parsons & Cuthbertson 1992). In Europe the stiff bracts of teasels were used for carding and teasing wool. Teasel cultivation for the treatment of wool in the United States of America became a significant industry following its introduction from Europe in the early to mid nineteenth century until superseded modern machinery by the mid 1950s (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001; Reed 2007). Teasel heads are now used in dried flower arrangements. The leaves are considered to have medicinal properties (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

How To Manage It?

Best practice management

Chemical and mechanical control can be employed to manage Wild Teasel.

Chemical control: Wild Teasel is effectively controlled by herbicide applied at the rosette stage (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

Please see the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority for chemical information http://www.apvma.gov.au

Non-chemical control: Wild Teasel can be controlled by ploughing before the plants have set seed. Follow up ploughing is required to kill plants that have resprouted from any remaining roots and to remove new seedlings that have been produced since the previous ploughing (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

Biological control: There is currently no biological control agent for Wild Teasel available in Australia, and the species is not currently a Target for Biological Control. However, natural enemies of Dipsacus species are being investigated in the United States of America.

Does it have a biological control agent?


When does it grow? (lifecycle/growth calendar)

Wild Teasel is regarded as a biennial plant, one which completes its life cycle within two years. However, plants can survive for longer than two years if they remain as leaf rosettes beyond the second year. Usually, rosettes reach a critical size in the second year leading to the production of stems in spring and flowers over several weeks of summer. Plants die in autumn and the dead stems remain standing for many months or even years. Seeds germinate following autumn rains or at other times after soil disturbance if moisture is adequate. Seeds remain viable for at least six years (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

Where Is It Found?

Which states and territories is it found?


What areas within states and territories is it found?

In Victoria, Wild Teasel is known mainly from the western half of the state with a few records also from south and east Gippsland (National Herbarium of Victoria 2007). 

It is common as a roadside plant in localised areas in northern Tasmania (Parsons and Cuthbertson 2001) and is also recorded from central and south-east Tasmania (AVH 2007). 

In New South Wales there are a few records from pastures in the Southern and Central Tablelands south from the Moss Vale district (Retter 1992). 

Odd plants have occurred in the Adelaide Hills in South Australia, however it is not known if the plant is still present there (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001), last collected in the Adelaide Hills in 1949. However, Wild Teasel has been collected in 2015 in the south east of South Australia near Tantanoola (eFlora 2021).

Where does it originate?

Wild Teasel is native to Europe and western Asia (Jeanes 1999).

National And State Weed Listings

Is it a Weed of National Significance (WONS)?


Where is it a declared weed?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the National Alert List for Environmental Weeds?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the Agricultural Sleeper List?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Names And Taxonomy

Main scientific name

Dipsacus fullonum

Other scientific names (synonyms)?

  • Dipsacus fullonum L. subsp. fullonum
  • Dipsacus sylvestris Huds.

Does it have other known common name(s)?

Wild Teazel, Fuller's Teasel, Fuller's Teazel, Card Thistle, Venus' Basin, Water Thistle

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