(Carduus) Thistle family

Is land fulfilling the primal curse because it brings forth

thistles? So thinks the farmer, no doubt, but not the goldfinches

which daintily feed among the fluffy seeds, nor the bees, nor the

"painted lady," which may be seen in all parts of the world where

thistles grow, hovering about the beautiful rose-purple flowers.

In the prickly cradle of leaves, the caterpillar of this thistle

butterfly weaves a web around its main food store.

When the Danes invaded Scotland, they stole a silent night march

upon the Scottish camp by marching barefoot; but a Dane

inadvertently stepped on a thistle, and his sudden, sharp cry,

arousing the sleeping Scots, saved them and their country: hence

the Scotch emblem.

>From July to November blooms the COMMON, BURR, SPEAR, PLUME,


(C. lanceolatus or Circium lanceolatum of Gray), a native of

Europe and Asia, now a most thoroughly naturalized American from

Newfoundland to Georgia, westward to Nebraska. Its violet

flower-heads, about an inch and a half across, and as high as

wide, are mostly solitary at the ends of formidable branches, up

which few crawling creatures venture. But in the deep tube of

each floret there is nectar secreted for the flying visitor who

can properly transfer pollen from flower to flower. Such a one

suffers no inconvenience from the prickles, but, on the contrary,

finds a larger feast saved for him because of them. Dense,

matted, wool-like hairs, that cover the bristling stems of most

thistles, make climbing mighty unpleasant for ants, which ever

delight in pilfering sweets. Perhaps one has the temerity to

start upward.

"Fain would I climb, yet fear to fall."

"If thy heart fail thee, climb not at all,"

might be the ant's passionate outburst to the thistle, and the

thistle's reply, instead of a Sir Walter and Queen Elizabeth

couplet. Long, lance-shaped, deeply cleft, sharply pointed, and

prickly dark green leaves make the ascent almost unendurable;

nevertheless the ant bravely mounts to where the bristle-pointed,

overlapping scales of the deep green cup hold the luscious

flowers. Now his feet becoming entangled in the cottony fibers

wound about the scaly armor, and a bristling bodyguard thrusting

spears at him in his struggles to escape, death happily releases

him. All this tragedy to insure the thistle's cross-fertilized

seed that, seated on the autumn winds, shall be blown far and

wide in quest of happy conditions for the offspring!

Sometimes the PASTURE or FRAGRANT THISTLE (C. odoratus or C.

pumilum of Gray) still further protects its beautiful, odorous

purple or whitish flower-head, that often measures three inches

across, with a formidable array of prickly small leaves just

below it. In case a would-be pilferer breaks through these lines,

however, there is a slight glutinous strip on the outside of the

bracts that compose the cup wherein the nectar-filled florets are

packed; and here, in sight of Mecca, he meets his death, just as

a bird is caught on limed twigs. The pasture thistle, whose range

is only from Maine to Delaware, blooms from July to September.

Even gentle Professor Gray hurls anathema at the CANADA THISTLE;

"a vile pest" he calls it. As CURSED, CORN, HARD, and CREEPING

THISTLE it is variously known here and in Europe, whence it came

to overrun our land from Newfoundland to Virginia, westward to

Nebraska. By horizontal rootstocks it creeps and forms patches

almost impossible to eradicate. The small reddish-purple

flower-heads, barely an inch across, usually contain about a

hundred florets each. In their tubes the abundant nectar rises

high, so that numerous insects, even with the shortest tongues,

are able to enjoy it. Not only bees and butterflies, but wasps,

flies, and beetles feast diligently. When a floret opens, a

quantity of pollen emerges at the upper end of the anther

cylinder, pressed up by the growing style. Owing to their slight

stickiness and the sharp processes over their entire surface, the

pollen grains, which readily cling to the hairs of insects, are

transported to the two-branched, hairy stigma of an older floret.

But even should insects not visit the flower (and in fine weather

they swarm about it), it is marvelously adapted to fertilize

itself. Farmers may well despair of exterminating a plant so

perfectly equipped in every part; to win life's battles.

"The colour of purple...was, amongst the ancients, typical of

royalty. It was a kind of red richly shot with blue, and the dye

producing it was attained from a shell found in considerable

numbers off the coast of Tyre, and on the shore near the site of

that ancient city, great heaps of such shells are still to be

found. The production of the true royal purple dye was a very

costly affair, and therefore it was often imitated with a mixture

of cochineal and indigo..." - J. JAMES TISSOT.

As many so-called purple flowers are more strictly magenta, the

reader is referred to the next group if he has not found the

flower for which he is in search here. Also to the "White and

Greenish" section since many colored flowers show a tendency to

revert to the white type from which, doubtless, all were evolved.

He should remember that all flowers are more or less variable in

shade, according to varying conditions.

TANSY BITTERBUTTONS TRAILING ARBUTUS MAYFLOWER GROUND LAUREL facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail