Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Slender Flowered Thistle (Carduus tenuiflorus)

Article written by Diane

This thistle has been spotted so far on two of the five trails we've been on, Wildwood and Hummingbird. Standing tall above woodland grass and low lying wildflowers this woody stalked thistle is not very attractive but it's delicate bright blooms have amazing 'curb appeal' and add to the beauty of the array of wildflowers.

More commonly known as the winged plumeless thistle, and also known as shore thistle. The thistle plant in general carries quite a tale.

Thistle is an old English name given for a large group of plants with a questionable reputation. According to ancient Greek folklore the thistle was apart part of the original curse put upon the earth and specifically on man. In Grecian history 'Earth' made the thistle in a moment of grief for the loss of Daphnis, shepherd and musician, poet and hunter. In Norse mythology Thor, the thunderer god, protected the plant, known as the 'lightning plant', and all those that wore it was protected from harm.

The common cotton thistle or Scotch thistle (Onopordum acanthium L.) has quite a noble stature. During the reign of Malcolm I of Scotland, Norsemen attempted to capture the Staines Castle by wading across the moat in their bare feet, only to find the moat dry and overgrown with thistle. The agonized cries of the warriors aroused the castle guards and the Norsemen were defeated. To memorialize this victory, the thistle flower became the emblem of Scotland. In some stories, thistle is also the basis of Hans Christian Anderson's tale The Wild Swans, where eleven princes were freed from their entrapment as swans when their sister made shirts from thistle and placed them on their backs.

Our common noxious thistle weed does not have such a majestic tale. Discovered and identified in 1991 in Thurston County, Washington, this thistle plant like all others are deadly to animals and livestock such as sheep due to it's crown of thorns and spiked stalks. This pretty slender flower thistle is an aggressive exotic weed that invades and infests grazing pastures and open ranges.

The thistle plant is in the asteraceae or compositae family, along with the aster, daisy, and sunflower. Slender flower is not native of America but made it's way here from Europe and Asia.

The delicate cluster of rosette leaves deeply lobed with numerous spines have the appearance of a pineapple and each lobe produces clusters of pink, purple and mauve blooms. Each "flower" is composed of many individual florets.

Many edible products come from 'composites', or thistle plants such as cooking oils, lettuce, sunflower seeds, artichokes, sweetening agents, and teas, but not so with this particular species - look but don't touch!

1 comment:

  1. we have lots of that thistle growing all over here fields and along the roadside.
    i always thought how cool it looks...with the bright fuschia colored flowers...but the spikey thorns...have kept me from transplanting some onto our property. i'll just admire it without getting TOO close!!

    thanks for ALL the info about this cool plant!!


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