This whole plant has a silvery thistle look. The leaves as well as the bracts around the flower are bristle-toothed. It grows 1 1/2-2 feet tall, with a heavy, stout stem densely branched on the upper half. The stems are smooth, but the leaves are divided into sharp lobes on each side of a midrib. The flowers are clustered on a more or less egg-shaped head, up to 3/5 inch long and smaller at the end and about 1/2 inch across. They are surrounded by showy, spiny leaf bracts. When the tiny, silvery-looking flowers mature, they turn sky-blue.
This large genus of mostly temperate regions resembles the thistles of the aster family (Asteraceae) in their prickliness, but the flowers reveal that these species belong to the carrot family. In Europe roots of some species are candied, and in South America the fiber caraguata is obtained from the leaves of one. In North America curative powers have been ascribed to some species.
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