Our latest adventure with More Nature Study with the Outdoor Hour Challenge brought us in close contact with those beautiful-to-look-at/dangerous-to-touch wildflowers called thistles. Some would say calling them wildflowers is a stretch because of their invasive behavior, but more on that later.
|Late afternoon at Sharp's Waterford Farm.|
We live on the edge of the countryside, ever encroached upon by development, but farmland is still in our backyard. On the day we took on the thistle challenge we were finishing a farm field trip that included a very interesting and fun lesson about life as the Pilgrims knew it. Thankfully this farm, in the same family for over a century, had applied for preservation status. Driving away over the upper pastures, we envied the unbroken view to the horizon across cow and horse pastures and acres of pick-your-own pumpkins ("sugar pumpkins, the best for pies").
Mei's riding experience had taught her how dangerous those flat pizza-sized sprouting thistle rosettes could be to her horse. We winced at the thought of the pain or worse it could inflict on the tender underside of a horse' hoof. Knowing this pasture would be a preferred habitat, we very quickly spotted evidence of our subject just inside the (electrified) fence. Jumping out of the car on a narrow lane to snap its pic, I found a large rosette of spiny growth on my side just at my feet. I also spied a couple of teasel plants, one of which I helped myself too. I'll leave that for another post...
|Probably Canadian Thistle. Bull leaves are hairy.|
- "Canada thistle is considered a noxious weed throughout the U.S, with millions of dollars spent annually on its control. Left uncontrolled, it can reduce yields of row crops by as much as 90 percent.
Of course God doesn't make anything without a reason. The numerous species of butterflies, bees, and birds that depend on them for food attest to this. And just watching a colorful swallowtail or goldfinch clinging to the flower is a balm to our spirits.I was encouraged by some of this quote:
|A Painted Lady. Lay some eggs!|
- "Red Admirals, viceroys and painted lady butterflies lay eggs on Canada thistle, and the subsequent larvae feed on the leaves and stems. However, only the painted lady butterfly builds up populations high enough to eliminate an infestation. This butterfly is generally found in southern states and will migrate north only once every 8 to 11 years."
|Spreading seeds. A no-no!|
|Bull Thistle gone to seed|
|Bull Thistle spent flower head|
|A Bull Thistle flower that was caught by frost.|
| A row of Canadian Thistles going to seed. |
Pretty little flowers a month ago.
|Canada Thistle seedhead|
We then investigated the bed by the road that had been invaded last year. Plants were popping up everywhere one next to another through their insidious under-ground roots. And from what we know now, it's going to take a lot more than hand-pulling to eradicate the Invaders!
|Chow down, Bambi!|
Hope you learned a little. Thanks to The Outdoor Hour Challenge, we learned a lot including some things we might rather NOT have learned! Ignorance can be bliss.
Hop over to the Outdoor Hour Blog Carnival to see what discoveries others have made. And don't blow the thistles!