Jun 07 2015

Color With Thorns

Published by at 7:15 am under Phenology,Plants

Nodding thistle flower head (photo by Kate St. John)

Nodding thistle flower head (photo by Kate St. John)

Lots of big thistles are blooming now by the road to Duck Hollow in Pittsburgh.  At first I couldn’t identify them but my guess was that anything growing so well by the road was probably alien and invasive.  I was right.

Nodding thistle or musk thistle (Carduus nutans) is a biennial from Africa and Eurasia that came to this continent by accident, perhaps in ballast water.  It thrives in disturbed soil at roadsides and landslides and in heavily grazed pastures.  It’s a thorn in the side for cattle farmers and an alien invasive.

A view of the entire plant shows many thorns and the reason why its called “nodding.”

Nodding thistle nods (photo by Kate St. John)

Nodding thistle by Old Browns Hill Road (photo by Kate St. John)

Despite its mean reputation, I think it’s beautiful. The buds look like reddish-purple star bursts as they open.

Nodding thistle bud opening (photo by Kate St. John)

Nodding thistle bud opening (photo by Kate St. John)

And the color of the flower is outstanding. My favorite view is too wide for this blog’s narrow format so click here for a closeup of color without thorns.


(photos by Kate St. John)

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Color With Thorns”

  1. Anne Marieon 07 Jun 2015 at 8:12 am

    The close up was very pretty!

  2. Nannie Underwoodon 07 Jun 2015 at 10:09 am

    Oh so very invasive. One thistle gone to seed can ruin an entire pasture….

  3. Janet Campagnaon 07 Jun 2015 at 2:15 pm

    That’s a girly color, for sure. Love it.

Comments RSS

Leave a Reply