Saturday, January 03, 2015

Common Teasel

Something from the other familiar kingdom today: Dipsacus fullonum or wild teasel or fuller's teasel or common teasel. 
It is in the Order Dipsacales which comprises only two families: the Caprifoliaceae  or honeysuckle family (to which teasel belongs), and the Adoxaceae or Moschatel family, which includes Viburnum and Sambucus or Elder.

This photo was taken in late October on the Isle of Wight.

It is often planted as a winter food for birds like goldfinch in this country, but in the USA some species are invasive and discouraged.

The Latin specific name derives from it's use by fullers, who used to prepare wool. Fulling, tucking and walking the wool are synonyms for the process of washing it and thickening it. The thickening process involved carding, a term which ironically comes from carduus which referred to teasels (and nowadays refers to thistles) which referred to the process of teasing out the wool fibres.

Essentially the plant kingdom is divided into the algae and the land plants. The latter are divided into the Bryophytes and the vascular plants. Bryophytes include the mosses and liverworts; vascular plants are what we mostly think of as plants. 

Around 1.5 million living species have been described. Of these, about 1.25 million are invertebrates with just under a million insects. 300,000 plants and about 60,000 animals. Just to give a rough idea. 10,000 species are discovered each year. Nobody knows how many there might be altogether. 

We seem to know less about life than we do about the physical universe.


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