Is the common teasel (Dipsacus fullonum) carnivorous or was Francis darwin wrong?

James J. Krupa, J. Matthew Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Francis Darwin first suggested that the common teasel (Dipsacus fullonum L.), a biennial species, might be a carnivorous plant. He suggested that this species acquires nutrients from insects that drown in water-holding cups formed at the base of leaves that surround the stems. Since then, other biologists have made the same claim. To test this we addressed the question: does adding invertebrates as supplemental nutrients to water-filled cups of D. fullonum influence reproduction or are nutrients only obtained from the soil? We performed two factorial designed experiments (high-nutrient soil vs. low-nutrient soil) × (fed vs. control) to test this. Fed treatments involved either crickets or liquefied animal solution. We performed a third experiment where teasel plants were grown in nutrient deficient standard carnivorous plant soil mix to determine whether prey supplement influenced growth and reproduction. These experiments revealed that soil nutrients alone influence growth and reproduction. More seeds were produced by plants grown in high-nutrient soil; while curiously, a higher percentage of seeds germinated from plants grown in low-nutrient soil. When teasel rosettes were grown in carnivorous plant soil, plants did not grow, produce stems, or flower, even with animal solution. Thus we found no evidence suggesting common teasel is carnivorous.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321-328
Number of pages8
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Tim Philips for use of his equipment and his help on this project. We also thank Carol and Jerry Baskin for their helpful comments and suggestions throughout this study. We thank the staff at the University of Kentucky Regulatory Services for conducting analysis of soil nutrients and for doing the viability tests for seed germination.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, Canadian Science Publishing. All rights reserved.


  • Botanical carnivory
  • Common teasel
  • Dipsacus fullonum
  • Germination
  • Seed production
  • Soil nutrients

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Plant Science


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