Teasel (Dipsacus spp.) is a common biennial “weed” that has very distinctive spiny flower heads. These unique flower heads dry right on the tall prickly stems and are extremely long-lasting in dried arrangements or for craft projects. Teasel is commonly found in fields and meadows and along the roadside. They are rather inconspicuous when they are in flower during the summer but in the fall, after the flowers have dried and turned to a beautiful golden brown, they really stand out. The seeds provide food for many birds over the winter.
Teasel was introduced to the United States from Europe in the 1700’s for its use in the woolen trade where the dried head was used to “tease” the nap of woolen cloth. It has now spread throughout much of the U.S. and is considered invasive in some areas.
The stiff prickly stems and dried flowers are great additions to natural fall arrangements but a really fun project for fall or holiday time is creating neat “things” with the dried flower heads.
Making Cool Critters from Dried Teasel Flowers
My first introduction to teasel critters was at the retirement village of Foulkeways in Gwynedd, PA where my in-laws were living. For many years, Eric’s mom was in charge of the Nature Board in the central building and whenever we visited, we would always go down to see what she had put up on this big bulletin board. It usually included interesting natural history stories and articles, a list and photographs of the birds that had been spotted on the Foulkeways campus, and a listing of the plants that were in bloom in the wildflower meadow which Foulkeways had created and planted under her direction. The board was often decorated with fresh cut wildflowers she collected from this beautiful meadow.
On one fall visit, she took us down to the Nature Room where there was a display of various “teasel critters” that had been made by one of the residents. There were wonderful squirrels, bunnies, woodchucks, reindeer … You name it, she had created it! They were adorable! One of the first things I thought of was that this would make a great project for kids. It turns out they are pretty easy to make – all you need is a little imagination and a few supplies!
The following is an excerpt from the Brandywine River Museum website that describes how to create a cute teasel reindeer. You can substitute beads for the eyes and nose if you don’t have the appropriate berries at hand and the legs can be made of twigs instead of soybean pods. Just use your imagination and the materials you have at hand.
Making a Teasel Reindeer
- 1 small teasel
- 1 large teasel
- 2 dried daylily stems
- 2 golden chain tree seeds
- 1 small dried red seed
- pointed scissors
- glue gun
- wire cutters
- clear acrylic spray
- 2 white pine cone petals (scales)
- 4 soybeans
- 1 pussy willow bud
- 8″ lightweight, green floral wire
Be sure to supervise children when using scissors, shears, and hot glue. Wearing gloves also makes working with these spiny flowers more comfortable!
- Using clippers, cut the stem and bracts from two teasels. The larger teasel will be used for the body, the smaller for the head.
- With scissors, trim the spines from the smaller and larger teasels where the head and body will join. The trimming will enable a stronger bond when glued.
- Using a hot glue gun, glue the trimmed areas of the teasel together. Hold until glue is set.
- For antlers, cut dried daylily stems to 1-1/2″. Use hot glue on ends of stems and insert into small teasel.
- With the point of your scissors, make small holes in front of antlers for the eyes, glue in golden chain tree seeds using hot glue. Make a third hole for the nose and glue in red seed.
- Trim white pine cone scales for ears and hot glue one behind each antler, slightly to the outside of each daylily stem.
- Using hot glue, glue in the four soybeans for legs. See picture for placement.
- Using hot glue, glue in a pussy willow bud for the tail.
- With wire cutters, cut an 8″ piece of lightweight, green floral wire. Wrap 2″ of wire once around body behind the neck and twist tightly. This is the hanger.
- Spray entire critter with clear acrylic spray.
From: Brandywine River Museum
Now that you know the technique, you can make up your own critters!
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Until next time – Happy Gardening!