It grows to 4.6–6.6 ft tall, with arching, deeply lobed, silvery, glaucous-green leaves 20–32 in long. The flowers develop in a large head from an edible bud about 3.1–5.9 in diameter with numerous triangular scales; the individual florets are purple. The edible portions of the buds consist primarily of the fleshy lower portions of the involucral bracts and the base, known as the “heart”; the mass of immature florets in the center of the bud is called the “choke” or beard. These are inedible in older, larger flowers.
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