Synonyms: Onopordon acanthium.
Biennial 150 cm heigh.
This plant is native to Europe and Western Asia being spread from the Iberian Peninsula to the East, to Kazakhstan, and, up North, to central Scandinavia. It is widely naturalised elsewhere. Grows on waste lands and arable land, especially on chalky and sandy soils avoiding shade.
Leaves and flowers contain alkaloids, lacton arcciopycrine, saponins, an inulin, a bitter principles, carbohydrates, proteins, an ascorbic acid. The seed contains about 25% oil.
Traditional Use and Activity
The flowering plant is cardiotonic. It is used in some proprietary heart medicines. The juice of the plant has been used with good effect in the treatment of cancers and ulcers. A decoction of the root is astringent. It is used to diminish discharges from mucous membranes. Flower buds are edible when cooked. It is an artichoke substitute, though they are much smaller and very fiddly to use. Cooked stems are used as a vegetable, they are a cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) substitute. The stems are cooked in water like asparagus or rhubarb. They are best if the rind is removed. Cooked leaves and young plants are harvested before the flowers develop and the prickles are removed prior to cooking. The petals are an adulterant for saffron, used as a yellow food colouring and flavouring. A good quality edible oil is obtained from the seed.