Abstract This study includes a taxonomic revision of the genus Cynara. Eight species and four subspecies are recognized, viz. C. algarbiensis, C. auranitica, C. baetica including subsp. baetica and subsp. maroccana (formerly known as C. hystrix), C. cardunculus including subsp. cardunculus and subsp. flavescens, C. cornigera, C. cyrenaica, C. humilis (formerly sometimes in the genus Bourgaea) and C. syriaca. The cultivated artichoke (formerly C. scolymus) and cardoon are both included in C. cardunculus. One species, C. tournefortii, is excluded from Cynara. A cladistic study of the genus is also undertaken and its morphology, anatomy and phytogeography are discussed.