The genus classification Dipsacus is composed of about 15 species of flowering plants commonly referred to as teasels. They are easily identified by their tall, prickly stems and leaves that form a cup-like shape at their stems. When in bloom, hundreds of flowers group in egg-shaped heads, which are generally purple, dark pink, or lavender in color. Teasels grow up to a height of around 3.2 to 8.2 feet (1 to 2.5 m).
Dipsacus follonum, or Fuller’s teasel, is one of the most popular plant species that belong to this genus classification. Although it is common to find this in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand, the Fuller’s teasel originated in parts of Eurasia and northern Africa. This particular species is classified as a noxious weed because it grows and spreads relatively fast around a certain area, claiming places where other native types of vegetation would otherwise grow.
The common teasel (Dipsacus sylvestris) and the cut-leaved teasel (Dipsacus laciniatus) can be commonly found along roadsides and railways of the United States. Originally found in Europe, these species were introduced into the United States in the 1770s. The heads of these types of plants provide a source of food for certain species of birds, such as the European goldfinch, during the winter. Florists also use the heads of these plants in fresh and dried flower arrangements. Other species that are included in this genus classification are the slim teasel (Dipascus strigosus), the small teasel (Dipsacus pilosus), and the Japanese teasel (Dipsacus japonica).
One species in this genus, the Dipsacus sativus, is cultivated and used for textile processing. The spiny heads on this teasel are collected and dried before they are used for combing and raising the nap on different types of fabric, particularly wool. Many textile factories have begun replacing these with metal combs, but there are still a number of people who choose to use the heads of the Dipsacus sativus for raising the nap of fabric.
There have been numerous claims that certain plants in this particular genus can be used for medicinal purposes. The water collected from the leaf bases of the teasel has been said to be an effective medicated eyewash. Teasels have also been used in certain regions to improve blood circulation and to treat a variety of conditions, including warts and Lyme disease. Medical studies, however, have yet to verify the accuracy of these treatments.