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the web of life in southern Africa

Cynara scolymus (Globe artichoke)

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 flowerhead is eaten as a vegetable. A cultigen species, probably derived from the Cynara carduncellus (Cardoon) which originates from southern Europe and North Africa.


The flowerhead (bracts and receptacle but excluding florets) is eaten as a vegetable. It is thistle like in appearance (it belongs to the same tribe in the daisy family as thistles) but has been selectively bred to exclude spines on the bracts (although plants derived from seed are usually variably spiny). Can be pickled, baked, fried, boiled or stuffed. Young artichokes can be eaten raw. Cynara scolymus is a cultigen species, probably derived from Cynara carduncellus (Cardoon). Cardoon is native to southern Europe and North Africa. 

Globe Artichokes were cultivated by the Greeks and Romans who obtained them from North Africa. They have been grown in England since at least the 1500's and were considered an aristocratic vegetable. King Henry VIII (1491-1547; he who had 6 wives but could produce only 3 children) was particularly fond of artichokes, possibly because they were (mistakenly) thought to be an aphrodisiac.


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

Text by Hamish Robertson