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FutureStarrTypes of Thistle
Thistle is a woody herbaceous plant of the family Asteraceae, native to Europe and Asia.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. Thistles (and thistle-seed feeders) also provide important sustenance for goldfinches and are strongly favored by many butterflies besides fritillaries such as the monarch, skippers, and the various types of tiger swallowtail. Additionally, hummingbirds will feed on the flowers of the biennial species (which feature large flowers, as compared with the perennial Canada thistle).
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. 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)