Cynara cardunculus

Cynara cardunculus, the perennial plant commonly known as the cardoon, is a member of Asteraceae, the second largest family of flowering plants. The plant is native to the Mediterranean Basin, but beyond its contemporary cultivation in areas of France, Spain, and Italy, it also grows in different parts of California, South America, and Australia. It figures in a number of recipes from the culinary traditions of Spain and Portugal (in the Spanish Cocido madrileno, for instance), and, traditionally, the battered and fried stems are served at the altars of St. Joseph that are scattered throughout the streets of New Orleans. Additionally, the plant produces a vegetarian substitute for rennet, an enzyme integral to the production of several European cheeses.

For gardeners, C. cardunculus, which is one of 8 species included in Cynara, tends to be somewhat cumbersome: beyond its tenacious, weed-like invasiveness, it requires both a large amount of open space (specimens must be planted around ¾ of a metre apart) and a lengthy growing period of up to 5 months. While its fleshy taproot enables it to tolerate dry soils and climates, the plant’s hardiness to drought is matched by its inability to cope with frost and snow. The apex, which in the right soil conditions stands as high as 3 or 4 metres, puts forth a large and many-flowered head of blue or purplish flowers loaded with pollen.

Specimens are planted both in our Food Garden and in our Physic Garden, as elements in the leaves are commonly thought to benefit digestion, circulation, as well as the functioning of the liver and the gall bladder.

Cynara cardunculus

11 responses to “Cynara cardunculus”

  1. The Hollyberry Lady

    Absolutely stunningly gorgeous!
    : O

  2. Dori

    How does this differ from globe artichoke, also known as cynara cardunculous?

  3. Marilyn Brown

    I started this from seed years ago, because I was curious. It is glorious, growing about 6′ tall, and topped off each summer with a dozen or more bright purpley-blue thistles. The honeybees love them, as is apparent in your photo. My one plant shares a small space with a vigorous “Fourth of July” rose and a Fuji apple tree. Seeing this beautiful plant in my garden always brings me joy, and seeing it on BPotD was a wonderful surprise . Thank you for all the delights you bring to us !

  4. Douglas Justice

    As Dori points out, Cynara cardunculus is also the name for the cultivated artichoke. The name Cynara comes from the Greek kyon, a dog, referring to the pointed, tooth-like phyllaries, bracts peculiar to the flowerheads of plants in the sunflower family, that are the edible part of artichoke. Note that the softer innermost phyllaries, together with the receptacle (the stem tissue at the base of the flowerhead) are the most edible parts, and only become palatable after cooking. Artichokes, also sometimes known under the invalid name Cynara scolymus, are completely unknown in the wild and are presumed to have been selected over the millennia from the tougher cardoon, whose phyllaries are stiff and inedible.

  5. elizabeth a airhart

    i came across these two lines by
    robert sheriden
    won’t you come into my garden
    i would like my roses to see you
    mr justice and company thank you for the invite

  6. Cambree

    I thought this was milk thistle flower. This plant is also called “artichoke thistle”.
    If I had a cat, I would name her Cardooni after this flower. I love this photo! And love the bee too.

  7. Claire on Bainbridge Island

    This is an outstanding photo. What a great name for a beautiful plant. Thank you. I have only learned about Cardoon since moving to the Northwest. My local vintner (Bainbridge Island Winery) taught me about it and I have been impressed ever since. But, this photo is over the top.

  8. mary elabarger

    This is my absolute all time favorite flower – for its size, audacity, “little shop of horrors” quality – I have overwintered it in SW PA – people stop by in awe – “What is that?!”. Have tried and not been able to get a picture like this. Thank you so much! Mary Elabarger

  9. Melissa

    The bee is a bumblebee (Genus Bombus)

  10. Connie

    I love these macro photos- and this is lovely. Being a beekeeper, I am always tickled to see the pollinators included. Now I know I have to grow some! How do you overwinter it in SW PA? ( I’m in MD.) Also, I guess I want to know how to contact the different members of this list directly, so I don’t bother all of you w/ questions for one of you. Thanks!

  11. Heike Schmidt

    Where can I get it? I have been trying to find a plant in Victoria but no-one seems to sell it?

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