Artichoke thistle

Cynara cardunculus

Artichoke thistle is a perennial herb. Stems are greyish-green. Mature plant stems are strongly ribbed, covered in cottony down on the underneath and branched near the top. Generally, only one stem develops from each crown but up to eight may be produced. Leaves are greyish-green on the upper surface and covered with a dense mat of white hair underneath. Artichoke thistle forms a basal rosette of leaves which can grow out (horizontally) to 1 m in length and 30 cm wide and sends up a stalk in the centre (or stem leaf) which is smaller, about 15 cm long. All leaves are deeply divided containing a sharp yellow-orange spine along the margins. Florets are blue to purple with globular-shaped heads of 7-13 cm diameter. These are surrounded by a series of stout bracts, each ending in a spiny tip.

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