60323Some of the biggest and nastiest weeds are thistles. The most common is annual sowthistle, which can get taller than four feet in just a few months. It is relatively easy to handle, since the bristly foliage and stems are somewhat soft, almost like coarse lettuce. Blessed milkthistle is much nastier, with sharp foliar spines that can penetrate boots! It can get more than five feet tall and broad!

Most thistles are biennials or perennials, with spiny lobed foliage. They produce low foliar rosettes during their first year, and then bolt and bloom on tall floral stalks during their second year. Biennials usually die after bloom, but sometimes regenerate from the roots later. Perennials are more likely to regenerate and bloom annually for several years. Some thistles get rather shrubby.

The roots of many types of thistle would not be too difficult to pull from well watered soil if only the spiny foliage were not so difficult to handle. Larger plants might be easier to pry out with a shovel. If foliage is merely cut off at the the surface of the soil, it will regenerate from the large tap roots left below. However, cutting down flower stalks before bloom interferes with seed dispersion.

12 thoughts on “Thistle

  1. Surely not grown in our gardens or in the nursery, but I do harvest this plant for a tincture and for tea. Very beneficial! Also, milk thistle was used to curdle milk for making cheese. it pops up in the sheep field and I make a point to gather it in the spring. However, I am not encouraging it to spread profusely and it hasn’t!

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    1. We had it very bad a few years ago, and were expecting it to get much worse, but somehow it didn’t. I can see it developing now, but it seems to be less than last year. I never hear of ‘that’ happening.


  2. Just yesterday I noticed the first Texas thistles (Cirsium texanum) here for 2019. Because I approach plants as a photographer rather than a gardener, I find thistles fascinating, though in pursuit of portraits I’ve gotten jabbed more times than I’d like.

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  3. Ugh, I see rosettes emerging all over our pecan orchard property. I dread doing battle again this year with thistle and the bur plants. I do like the idea Fernwoodnursery has for tincture and tea. I need to discover the benefits. Maybe I’ll have a better attitude about this prickly beast!

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    1. Well, using it or tea or a tincture does not mean that it does not need to be controlled. You would get more than you need for the year, or a few years, just by weeding a small patch of the orchard.

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  4. Thistle were a big problem here on the farm when I first came back in 2013. I read where you can dig down into the root about 2″ below the soil and it would kill them. Since I have been doing that I have made a lot of progress. A few years ago there was a small group of awesome plants by the barn with silvery green leaves I hadn’t seen before. They were beautiful. I do like the flowers of the thistles but certainly not their leaves. GREAT POST!

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