Cynara (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Cynara L.

Family: Compositae

Major species and synonyms

Vernacular names

C. cardunculus:

  • Cardoon (En)
  • Cardon (Fr)
  • Vietnam: ba cai.

C. scolymus:

  • Artichoke (En)
  • Artichaut (Fr)
  • Vietnam: ác ti sô, hoa dira.


Cultivated since ancient times in the Mediterranean region where both species originated. C. scolymus is only known from cultivation, but C. cardunculus also occurs in the wild. Other areas of cultivation include South America, Central Asia, Japan, and occasionally in Vietnam, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.


The fleshy base (receptacle) of the not yet opened flowerhead and the thickened bases of the involucral bracts of artichoke are considered a delicacy, and are eaten raw or more usually cooked. The large tender petioles of artichoke can also be eaten but it is cardoon which is primarily cultivated for this purpose. Both plants are also decorative ornamentals. In Vietnam artichoke leaves are used as a medicine in case of retention of the urine or bile, kidney inflammation and rheumatism.


  • Closely related, large, perennial, thistle-like herbs, up to 2 m (cardoon) or 1.5 m (artichoke) tall.
  • Leaves irregularly pinnately lobed, 30-100 cm long, prominently spiny (cardoon) or hardly spiny (artichoke); petiole of cardoon is thickened.
  • Flowerhead globose with many involucral bracts which enclose violet-blue florets; head of artichoke 4-8 cm in diameter, with enlarged and fleshy receptacle and involucral bracts broad and thickened at base, unarmed; heads of cardoon smaller and with spine-tipped involucral bracts.

In not too humid conditions, cultivation in the tropics is possible at altitudes above 1500 m. Propagation is from seed or suckers (C. scolymus). Planting distance 1 m × 1 m. Requires very fertile soil.

Selected sources

7, 9, 43, 50, 57, 58, 65, 98.