Annual or perennial herbs and subshrubs. Leaves opposite or whorled, simple, toothed or lobed; stipules absent. Flower clusters forming dense heads with basal bracts. Flowers bisexual or female, irregular, usually with a basal epicalyx of fused bracteoles that may form a corona. Calyx cup-like or of 4, 5 or many teeth or bristles. Corolla of 4-5 more or less equal, fused lobes or 2-lipped. Stamens 2 or 4, fused to the flower tube. Ovary inferior. Carpels 2, united, with 1 chamber containing a single ovule. Fruit a dry cypsela, surrounded by the epicalyx, sometimes with the persistent calyx on top and containing a single seed.
Rarely cultivated genera include: Cephalaria consisting mostly of alpine species from Europe, including the pale yellow-flowered C. alpina (L.) Roem. & Schult., C. gigantea (Ledeb.) Bobrov and C. leucantha Schrad. Knautia from the Mediterranean, is grown as K. arvensis (L.) T. Coult., Blue Buttons, a perennial with pale blue heads, and K. macedonica Griseb. with deep purple flowers. The monospecific genus Succisa, as S. pratensis Moench, Blue Buttons, from Europe, W Siberia and N Africa, is grown as a border or cottage garden plant to 1 m tall with purple, pink or white flowers. Pterocephalus as P. perennis is a cushion-forming plant with purple-pink flower heads to 10 cm high. [P. parnassi Spreng.]
Floristry and the cloth industry.
Superficially similar to the Asteraceae or daisy family, but distinguished by stamens with free anthers protruding from the flowers, and fruits with surrounding bracts and tipped with the persistent calyx of bristles or teeth.
8 genera and 250 species from Europe to E Asia and C to S Africa with a centre of diversity in the Mediterranean region.
Source: (2002). Dipsacaceae. In: . Horticultural Flora of South-eastern Australia. Volume 4. Flowering plants. Dicotyledons. Part 3. The identification of garden and cultivated plants. University of New South Wales Press.