The genus consists of around 15 species of large, herbaceous biennials that reach 3.3 to 8.2 feet (1 to 2.5 meters). Dipsacus species are endemic to North Africa, Asia, and Europe. The genus name Dipsacus is a Greek word meaning thirst.
It refers to the cup-shaped formation that arises where the sessile foliage on the stem merges.
Many teasels are thick, thorny biennials with opposing leaves that converge at the base to create a rainwater retention channel around the stem.
The high, domed heads of many 4-lobed flowers rest in a crown-like circle of narrow, thorny bracts. The flowers are white, purple, lavender, or dark pink. The inflorescence is ovate, 4 to 10 centimeters (1.6 to 3.9 in) long and 3 to 5 centimeters (1.2 to 2.0 in) wide, with a basal whorl of thorny bracts.