Thistle Species OR''

Thistle Species OR''

Thistle Species

Thistle is the common name of a group of flowering plants characterised by leaves with sharp prickles on the margins, mostly in the family Asteraceae. Prickles can also occur all over the plant – on the stem and on the flat parts of the leaves. These prickles are an adaptation that protects the plant from being eaten by herbivores. Typically, an involucre with a clasping shape similar to a cup or urn subtends each of a thistle's flowerheads.Biennial thistles are particularly noteworthy for their high wildlife value, producing such things as copious floral resources for pollinators, nourishing seeds for birds like the goldfinch, foliage for butterfly larvae, and down for the lining of birds' nests.


Thistles have been said to be very important nectar sources for pollinators. Some ecological organizations, such as the Xerces Society, have attempted to raise awareness of their benefits, to counteract the general agricultural and home garden labeling of thistles as unwanted weeds. The monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus for instance, was highlighted as traditionally relying upon taller large-flowered thistle species such as Tall thistle, Cirsium altissimum, for its migration. Although such organizations focus on the benefits of native thistles, certain non-native thistles, such as Cirsium vulgare in North America, may provide similar benefits to wildlife. Some prairie and wildflower seed production companies supply bulk seed for native North American thistle species, for wildlife habitat restoration, although availability tends to be low. Thistles are particularly valued by bumblebees for their high nectar production. Cirsium vulgare ranked in the top 10 for nectar production in a UK plants survey conducted by the AgriLand project which is supported by the UK Insect Pollinators Initiative.

According to legend, an invading Norse army was attempting to sneak up at night upon a Scottish army's encampment. During this operation one barefoot Norseman had the misfortune to step upon a thistle, causing him to cry out in pain, thus alerting Scots to the presence of the Norse invaders. Some sources suggest the specific occasion was the 1263 Battle of Largs, which marked the beginning of the departure of King Haakon IV (Haakon the Elder) of Norway who, having control of the Northern Isles and Hebrides, had harried the coast of the Kingdom of Scotland for some years.There are about a dozen purple-flowered spiny thistle species that occur in Oklahoma. Oklahoma’s Noxious Weed Law can raise concern among landowners if they do not know which thistles on their land they are required to control. The purpose of this publication is to describe the introduced thistles, selected common native thistles and provide information about them. There are other plants that are referred to as thistles, such as the Russian thistle (Salsola tragus), bull thistle or bullnettle (Cnidoscolus texanus) and spiny sowthistle (Sonchus asper), which are not included in this identification guide. (Source:extension.okstate.edu)



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