Saturday, July 12, 2008

Onopordum acanthium, Cotton Thistle, Donkey Thistle

This is a giant plant with huge spiny wings on the stem. Maybe 2 meters tall. Lower leaves about 8 dm long. Known from two places in St. Joseph County, IN. One at Lydick, along a RR, and the other in the industrial part of South Bend. To take an herbarium specimen you need leather welding gloves and a suit of armor. This plant was used as an added layer of defense around forts in Scotland. Its flower has been a national emblem in Scotland for over 800 years. It is eaten by donkeys(Onopordum is derived from the Greek words onos (donkey) and perdo (to consume).

Anyone else ever see it? Is it becoming a pest anywhere?

If you have Swink/Wilhelm 1994, you might enjoy a bit of humor hidden among the common names of thistles. Instead of looking up a thistle by latin name, go to "thistle" where all types are listed by their common name, and read the list.

You might also enoy their common name for Conobea multifida. It's a little-known plant and it lacks a common name in many books.


Scott said...

I've never seen it. I checked it's distribution on the USDA Plants database, and it's shown in scattered counties throughout the US (including several counties in central/southern Indiana). It seems most prevalent on the west coast.


Justin Thomas said...

Donkey Thistle is the most ridiculous plant I have ever seen! Thanks for sharing it, Keith!

ben said...

Thistle killya - Yuk yuk!
What's up with that? It is good to see some fun a scholarly book.

Keith said...

Well Floyd was the world's foremost pun creator in his day, with Jerry running a close second! Don't forget to look up Conobea multifida.

Scott said...

I like the pun about cottonwood, too... there are puns all throughout that book.