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Genus of the Week

Week of December 21-27

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This page has been created for people who want to learn more about plants, especially in the context of their taxonomy (Latin names, etc.). This is by no means an exhaustive list of all available Web resources for a particular genus.
If you like this page, you should also visit the Land of the Glandular Trichomes , a microscopic look at plants in the Lamiaceae family.

This week's genus:


Dipsacus


Subclass: Dicotyledoneae
Superorder: Asteridae
Order: Dipsacales
Family: Dispacaceae
Number of Species: at least 4
Root: From the Greek "dipsa", meaning to thirst. This is a reference to the cup-like shape formed by the whorl of bracts surrounding the stem of the species D. laciniatus.

The genus Dipsacus, often known by the common name "Teasel", has an inflorescence very similar to another genus of the Asteridae, the Thistle (Cirsium sp.). While the flowers of certain species are often used in dried arrangements, the flowerheads of Dipsacus are best known for their use in the wool industry, where they are a natural and flexible instrument used to "raise the nap", i.e. -tease- apart the fibers of wool cloth (This is how the genus got its common name). The roots of some species have also been used by herbalists to treat such ailments as warts, cankers and jaundice. Often species of this genus are considered to be weedy or invasive; D. sylvestris is one species that has become an aggressive invader in some parts of North America, having been introduced from Europe centuries ago for working with wool.

Here are a few links to images and descriptions of different Dipsacus species:


References:

  1. Grieve, M. (C. F. Leyel, ed.). A Modern Herbal. London, Tiger Books International: 1973.
  2. Heywood, V.H., ed. Flowering Plants of the World. New York, Oxford University Press: 1993.
  3. Neiring, William A. and Nancy C. Olmstead., eds. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers, Eastern Region. Alfred A. Knopf, New York: 1979.

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