A Little Trivia About Thistles

Hello Friends! Tonight’s Feature Image is titled “Thistle Launch 91921bw” and is available for purchase by clicking the thumbnail and reaching out to me on the contact page.

The dry air and cooler days begins the countdown. Guarded by foreboding spines the launchpad opens to reveal an armada of airborn pioneers ready to seek out new territory for colonial conquest. For most gardeners and enthusiasts of native landscape the thistle is a dreaded invader. But is it really an invader? Well that depends.

When we think about thistle the image that most comes to mind is the Scottish thistle of legend. If you’ve never heard the story it recounts the invasion of Scotland by the Normans and its said that one of the invaders for whatever reason was barefoot and stepped on a thistle. When he cried out in pain it alerted the Scotts to the enemy’s position and the sneak attack was thwarted. Henceforth the thistle became the emblem of the Scottish and is even known in some circles as guardian thistle. How it got to America is something I’m not sure of. Most likely it was by accident. However, there’s the mystery of Cherokee blowgun darts that are traditionally fletched with thistle down. A little research shows that North America actually has native species of thistle. The thistle was collected before the seeds form but after the the flowers close. There was a curing process that included clamping the flowers shut so they would stay in compact bundle. When ready they were wrapped onto the darts and used for both hunting and war. What’s more is that native songbirds such as the goldfinches tend to prefer thistle seeds as food. ( store bought “thistle seeds are often not even thistle but an African plant called nyjer)

Being raised around cattle and hay fields means that all thistle is bad. The cattle won’t eat it and as it spreads it reduces hay production. However, native field thistle is often mistaken for Scottish thistle. I’ve not personally checked this yet but the USDA says that native thistle has white on the underside of the leaves and now that I know this I’ll be keeping an eye out for it in the future. I don’t raise cattle anymore but I do absolutely love my songbirds and so in the future I’ll be considering my little flock of songbirds when I do the weed control around my house. I don’t want anything to completely take over but if I can find a native species of thistle and make a spot for them that’s free food for my birds, bees and butterflies.

Good night friends and be blessed throughout your days.

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11 thoughts on “A Little Trivia About Thistles

  1. Always learn something new when reading your posts. Thistles used as darts for war and to hunt game by the Natives and that the native to USA thistle doesn’t harm cattle is another. Blessings of abundance and unexpected discoveries! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words ♥️. I always try to make it interesting and give my best.
      My guess about why Scottish thistle made its way around the world is that not only is it good for honeybees but it also has some medicinal values. The settlers would have brought some herbalists with them and herbalists are pretty serious about making sure they have their plants that they’re familiar with available.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We have similar issues here in the Appalachian Mountains. Most of our invasive species come from Asia but one of worst is a European plant called Garlic Mustard. It’s highly nutritious and plentiful if you like garlic but it can utterly destroy a stand of old growth forest. It puts out a poison through it’s roots that kills our trees.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I hadn’t heard of Garlic Mustard so did a search … wow! Looks like a prolific spreader too. Foxglove has escaped gardens here over the last few years and is fast becoming a problem. Nothing eats it and it takes over areas in a similar way, smothering everything else out.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Garlic mustard is a very prolific spreader. Here we have groups of people who go into the landscape to pick it just to keep it from spreading. It’s also threatening one of our rare butterflies. The West Virginia White butterflies. They can’t tell the difference between their host plant and the Garlic Mustard. Unfortunately the Garlic Mustard is toxic to them. Humans can eat it in large quantities but it’s deadly to our little butterfly.
        Perhaps you can organize a group to go into the places where foxglove is taking over and just dig up as much as possible.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. It’s the same way here with invasive species. I’m actually about to write about one the worst ones.. Kudzu. But it does have a few benefits. Not saying that it be allowed to go wild but it’s proven to be impossible to eliminate without destroying the topsoil and the post is more about what you have available if you’re facing hardship.


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