Flowery Friday: nodding thistle.


Yes, it’s not a plant most people are fond of here; there’s a very good reason quite a few species are on our province’s invasive plants list. But I have a fascination with thistles – there’s all that geometry and architecture about them, especially when they’re not in full flower – so when I found this specimen in an overgrown back alley a block from my home in early July of last year, I was keen to get some photos of it. This isn’t the ubiquitous Canada thistle (Circsium arvense) – rather, I think it is Carduus nutans, nodding thistle, sometimes called musk thistle.

Of course, while I was hunkered down on the ground with my camera, busily snapping away, a city bylaw officer drove into the alley to investigate.  What he thought of my antics, I’ll never know, as he (thankfully!) didn’t stop the car to talk to me…but I do know that less than a week later, that alley was sprayed very thoroughly with weed killer.


  1. It’s a beautiful thing, and I found that we have it here in Texas, too. I suspect it’s farther north in the state,but it’s around. It’s marked “present and exotic” for us. You? You have a large swath of your country where it’s marked “noxious.” That explains the death squad that showed up.

    • Yes, it’s on the prohibited noxious list here. Unfortunately, they can get really out of hand in pasture lands and so the restriction is put in place to protect livestock. There may be a concern for riparian environments, as well.

  2. [J] For some years now, most local highway authorities (generally the locally highest tier of local government) do not spray road verges. But they do still use herbicides to control weeds that try and grow through the blacktop of country lanes, or more commonly footways [sidewalks] – both rural and urban. Yes they can do a lot of damage. Here in the Outer Hebrides – and indeed the Highlands and Islands generally, there’s a huge variety of thistles, many easily overlooked. They are remarkable plants, and it’s a pity that they are so universally thought of first and foremost (in fact almost exclusively) as thuggish pests.

  3. Oh, what a sad ending! I really liked your comment about the geometry of the thistle. That’s exactly right.

  4. we as animals tend to sterilize our environment.We get rid of the bears,cougars,wolves & wonder why there are so many deer…..which must now be culled because there are way too many of them! We do the same thing about plants as well.We force Mother Nature into our mold.
    Kudos to you for seeing beauty in the undesirables.

    • They are gorgeous, and I like them best when they’re not in full flower. But they are definitely aggressive and can really cause problems in agricultural areas, in particular. It’s too bad.

    • It’s too bad these plants don’t respond well to hand-picking – but then again, I can’t see the City hiring a crew to pull thistles. There isn’t any money for that, and it’s a never-ending task.

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