Artichoke plants (Cynara scolymus) are herbaceous perennials that are members of the Asteraceae family, a group that includes thistles, dandelions and sunflowers. They are short-lived perennials in warmer climates but are normally grown as annuals in cooler regions. Artichokes are usually grown for their edible flower buds, which are harvested before the flowers open. Artichokes leaves are silvery-green in color with a long, arching shape. Although they look soft, the leaves can be quite prickly. The plant stems are thick and fleshy. The flower buds are the parts of the plant sold in produce aisles. At the base of the bud is the tender, flavorful artichoke “heart.” If allowed to blossom on the plant, artichoke flowers open into large, dome- or muff-shaped purple thistles that are surprisingly fragrant.