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the web of life in southern Africa

Cynara cardunculus (Cardoon)

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Eudicotyledons > Core Eudicots > Asterids > Euasterid II > Family: Asteraceae > Tribe: Cynareae > Genus: Cynara

The fleshy leaf bases are eaten as a vegetable and the dried flowers are used for curdling milk. Originates from southern Europe and Northwest Africa.


Cynara carduncellus is native to southern Europe (from Crete and Sicily westwards to Spain and Portugal) and Northwest Africa, and is in the same tribe of the daisy family (Asteraceae) as thistles. It has been domesticated to produce the vegetable called Cardoon which has fleshy leaf-bases that are eaten rather like celery (either raw or cooked). The dried flowers are sometimes used as a substitute for rennet to curdle milk to produce cheese (e.g. the French soft curd cheese called La Caillebotte la Chardonette).

Cynara carduncellus has become naturalised in the pampas grasslands of South America.

Globe Artichoke is also thought to have been derived from Cynara carduncellus but is placed in a separate cultigen species called Cynara scolymus. It is the floweheads of Globe Artichoke that are eaten and these are much larger than those of Cardoon.


  • Phillips, R. & Rix, M. 1993. Vegetables. Pan Books, London.

Text by Hamish Robertson