As I have traveled around the region recently, I have seen many patches of cut-leaved teasel along roadways. Cut-leaved teasel (Dipsacus laciniatus), as well as the closely related common teasel (Dipsacus fullonum), is a biennial weed and one of the 12 weeds that the Missouri Department of Agriculture classifies as a noxious weed.
Once teasel is established in an area, it can be very difficult to control, making management important before the weed becomes a wide-spread pest.
Teasel is native to Europe and is believed to have been brought to the United States in the 1700s for use in the textile industry. The prickly seed heads were used to “tease” the wool fibers prior to spinning, which helped the plant derive its name. The use of mechanical teasing methods eventually proved more economical, leaving teasel plants with no market in the United States. Although initially grown in the eastern US, teasel has now found its way into nearly every state in the US, primarily traveling along highway corridors.
Teasel plants are commonly confused with thistles due to their prickly stem, leaves and seed head. Like thistles, teasel completes its life cycle in two years. In the first year, it forms a basal rosette with long, oval, irregularly lobed leaves. During the second year, a stem forms and the plant can reach heights of five to seven feet. Leaves are oppositely arranged around the stem and form a cup that can hold water near the stem, providing the plant a competitive advantage. At the top of the stem, white or purple flowers.