Perennial or monocarpic herbs, often sub- shrubs (less often shrubs or annual herbs, very rarely large shrubs or even treelets), laticiferous ducts present in roots; leaves alternate frequently forming a rosette; heads discoid (very rarely peripheral florets with 5-lobed ligules), usually many-flowered (rarely one-flowered); in- volucre campanulate, bracts in many rows, often spiny (less frequently unarmed); receptacle scaly or more often setose, rarely naked, alveolate; florets all fertile or the peripherals sterile, corollas purple, pink or yellow, seldom blue, usually tubular, usually actinomorphic, straight or s-shaped, deeply divided in five lobes of equal size; anther apical appendages extending into a rigid, lignified, lan- ceolate appendage, thecae bases sagittate (calcarate) and tailed (caudate) often with long divisions; pollen psilate, verrucate, scabrate or echinate, oblate, spherical or more prolate; styles slender; apices rounded, at maturity style branches not recurving, shaft with some short hairs above the point where the style branches and below with a papillose-pilose thickening (functionally a pollen brush); achenes usually with hardened pericarp, blackish by pres- ence of phytomelans; pappus of scales or bristles.

Diagnostic Features

Involucral bracts usually in five rows and spiny-tipped; leaves often spiny; style cylin- drical with a thickened articulation below the branches bearing a short collar of stiff hairs; anthers often with laciniate basal appendages, anther filaments usually papil- lose; and stamens often strongly thigmotropic, making up an elaborate mechanism of pollen presentation.

Geographic distribution

Widespread in Eurasia, especially diverse in the Mediterranean region where they constitute an important characteristic of the vegetation; some species are cosmopolitan weeds.