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Cynara cardunculus - L.

Common Name Cardoon
Family Asteraceae or Compositae
USDA hardiness 5-9
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Stony or waste places and in dry grassland, usually on clay[50].
Range S. Europe.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (1 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (5 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Cynara cardunculus Cardoon

Cynara cardunculus Cardoon


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Cynara cardunculus is a PERENNIAL growing to 2 m (6ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in).
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 6 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from August to September, and the seeds ripen from September to October. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees, Lepidoptera (Moths & Butterflies).
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay and nutritionally poor soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in saline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Plant Habitats

Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers  Leaves  Root  Stem
Edible Uses: Curdling agent

Flower buds - raw or cooked[33, 105]. A globe artichoke substitute[183]. The flower buds are a bit smaller than the globe artichoke and so are even more fiddly to use[K]. The buds are harvested just before the flowers open, they are then usually boiled before being eaten. Only the base of each bract is eaten, plus the 'heart' or base that the petals grow from [K]. The flavour is mild and pleasant and is felt by some people to be more delicate than the globe artichoke[K]. Stems - cooked and used as a celery substitute[2, 27, 33, 46, 61]. It is best to earth up the stems as they grow in order to blanch them and reduce their bitterness[4], these blanched stems can then be eaten cooked or in salads[105, 132, 183]. In Italy raw strips of the stems are dipped into olive oil[183]. We find these stems to be too bitter when eaten raw[K]. Young leaves - raw or cooked. Eaten as a salad by the ancient Romans[183]. Rather bitter[K]. Root - cooked like parsnips[27, 105, 183]. Tender, thick and fleshy, with an agreeable flavour[183]. The dried flowers are a rennet substitute, used for curdling plant milks[105, 183].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Anticholesterolemic  Cholagogue  Digestive  Diuretic

The cardoon has become important as a medicinal herb in recent years following the discovery of cynarin. This bitter-tasting compound, which is found in the leaves, improves liver and gall bladder function, stimulates the secretion of digestive juices, especially bile, and lowers blood cholesterol levels[238, 254]. The leaves are anticholesterolemic, antirheumatic, cholagogue, digestive, diuretic, hypoglycaemic and lithontripic[7, 21, 165]. They are used internally in the treatment of chronic liver and gall bladder diseases, jaundice, hepatitis, arteriosclerosis and the early stages of late-onset diabetes[238, 254]. The leaves are best harvested just before the plant flowers, and can be used fresh or dried[238].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses


The plant is said to yield a good yellow dye[4], though the report does not say which part of the plant is used.

Special Uses

Carbon Farming  Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Industrial Crop: Biomass  Management: Hay  Management: Standard  Staple Crop: Oil

Prefers a light warm soil and an open position in full sun[37, 200]. For best results, this plant requires plenty of moisture in the growing season and a good rich soil[16, 27, 33, 37], though another report says that it is drought tolerant once established[190]. Plants grew very well with us in the hot and very dry summer of 1995, though they were looking very tatty by September[K]. Tolerates most soils including heavy clays of both acid and alkaline nature, especially when grown in heavier or more spartan soils[200]. Plants are reasonably wind resistant[200, K]. This species is hardy to about -10°c[187]. Plants are more likely to require protection from winter cold when they are grown in a heavy soil[190]. Wet winters can do more harm than cold ones[K]. At one time the cardoon was often grown for its edible stems but it has now fallen into virtual disuse[132]. There are some named varieties[183]. It is a very ornamental foliage plant and makes a very attractive feature in the garden. The leaves are long lasting in water and are often used in flower arrangements[233]. Recent taxonomic revisions (1999) have seen the globe artichoke being merged into this species. However, since from the gardener's point of view it is quite a distinctive plant, we have decided to leave it with its own entry in the database under Cynara scolymus[K]. Plants seem to be immune to the predations of rabbits[233]. In garden design, as well as the above-ground architecture of a plant, root structure considerations help in choosing plants that work together for their optimal soil requirements including nutrients and water. The root pattern is fleshy. Thick or swollen - fibrous or tap root [2-1].

Carbon Farming

  • Industrial Crop: Biomass  Three broad categories: bamboos, resprouting woody plants, and giant grasses. uses include: protein, materials (paper, building materials, fibers, biochar etc.), chemicals (biobased chemicals), energy - biofuels
  • Management: Hay  Cut to the ground and harvested annually. Non-destructive management systems maintaining the soil organic carbon.
  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • Staple Crop: Oil  (0-15 percent protein, 16+ percent oil). Some of these are consumed whole while others are exclusively pressed for oil. Annuals include canola, poppyseed, maize, cottonseed, sunflower, peanut. Perennials include high-oil fruits, seeds, and nuts, such as olive, coconut, avocado, oil palm, shea, pecan, and macadamia. Some perennial oil crops are consumed whole as fruits and nuts, while others are exclusively pressed for oil (and some are used fresh and for oil).

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed - sow early spring in a greenhouse. Germination is usually quick and good, prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and plant them out into their permanent positions during the summer. It would be prudent to give the plants some winter protection in their first year. The seed can also be sown in situ in April. Sow the seed 2cm deep, putting 2 or 3 seeds at each point that you want a plant[1]. Protect the seed from mice[1]. Division of suckers. This is best done in November and the suckers overwintered in a cold frame then planted out in April. Division can also be carried out in March/April with the divisions being planted out straight into their permanent positions, though the plants will be smaller in their first year.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Artichoke; desert artichoke; European cardoon; globe artichoke; scotch thistle; Scottish thistle; Spanish artichoke; wild artichoke; wild cardoon. Spanish: alcachofa; alcaucil; cardo; cardo de comer. French: artichaut commun; carde; cardon d’Espagne. Russian: artišok ispanskij. Arabic: al harshuff. England and Wales: march-ysgall. Finland: Isoartisokka. Germany: artishocke; gemüseartishocke; gemüse-artishocke; kardone. Italy: carciofo. Netherlands: kardoen. Portugal: alcachofra; cardo. Spain: card; card comestible; card comú; herbacol. Sweden: kardon.

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Africa, Algeria, Argentina, Asia, Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Canary Islands, Chile, China, Cyprus, Europe, France, Greece, India, Italy, Libya, Macedonia, Mediterranean, Morocco, New Zealand, North Africa, North America, Paraguay, Portugal, South America, Spain, Tasmania, Tunisia, Turkey, Uruguay, USA.

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

This plant can be weedy or invasive. Native to southern Europe and North Africa, it has been widely introduced and is recognised as invasive in parts of Australia, the USA, Chile and Argentina. In California, it is categorized as a Most Invasive Wildland Pest Plant [1d].

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed.

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Cynara scolymusGlobe ArtichokePerennial1.5 5-9  LMHNM352

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References


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Readers comment

Carissa Chiniaeff   Sun Oct 19 2008

Can anyone send me a recipe for using Cardoon as rennet in cheese making? I have looked all over for specifics. Is it the dried flower or the purple fresh flower? Is it the whole flower?

guido montgomery   Sun Dec 14 2008

carissa, here in portugal dried cardoon flowers are routinely used in cheese-making, usually with sheep's milk. i make cheese from goat's milk using the dried flowers; i put a large pinch in an eggcupful of hot water (around 45-50 degrees celsius) with a small pinch of salt, stir and leave to macerate for an hour before adding to 4 to 5 litres milk. it works best at temps between 25 and 32 degrees; i add it after the milk (unpasteurised) has sat with sour milk starter for about one hour. takes 8-12 hours to form curd. the longer the better.

the artisan cheesemaker excellent site on cheesemaking

   Fri Nov 6 2009

I have eaten the fresh goat`s cheese Guido makes and it is absolutely delicious!

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