Posts Tagged Canada Thistle

Bower Woods, September 3

What really pushed me out on a walk today was to check on the the Caragana bushes I’ve been tracking since first blossom.  I thought I had left it too late, but I was just in time.  If you stand near a Caragana bush at this time of year and listen carefully you will hear the soft pop, pop, pop of  pods splitting and spitting forth their seed.

Ripe Caragana Seeds

Curled Horns of a Split Pod

Then I figured I should take a look around at what was happening.  The last time I walked Red Deer trails was on August 15th.  Even then you could see signs of the coming Autumn.  However, truth be told,  most things are still green though the wild roses are taking the lead with changing leaves.

Wild Rose Leaves

It’s as though the  Woods are poised waiting for the curtain to go up on Fall.  Today I noticed  the absence of the small butterflies so abundant two weeks ago.  The Sow Thistles that then boldly demanded attention with their yellow blooms, today blended their whites with those of the Canada thistles. The purple vetch that has bloomed furiously all summer, building mounded islands in the disturbed meadow, has given itself over to the making of seed too. Not a blossom to be seen.

Vetch pods

Smooth purple asters were still plentiful, though looking more tousled than before.

That consummate hustler, the Canada Thistle, was unfortunately abundant.   Not my favourite plant by a long shot, but there were so many they just begged to be photographed.

Field of Canadian Thistle in Seed

Canadian Thistle- ready to fly

Many red rose hips in evidence.  Also a variety of plants sporting inedible berries.


One berry per plant

Cool Purple stripes

Blue belled berries

Oh yes, and an abundance of fresh mushrooms up and making the most of the end of summer.

Some of many Fungi in the woods


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Thistle Soup

And how bland life would be if we all agreed.

Over the past few weeks I have been tracking the growth of Canada thistle plants on my walks, so today I thought I’d consult my flower books and do a little net-surfing to find out more about them.

The articles would do a thesaurus proud when it comes to a choice of adjectives appropriate to describe this plant: injurious, invasive, competitive, noxious, pernicious. Some used phrases such as  “aggressively spreading,” nuisance weed,” and “nasty little plant”.

And all articles propagated in Canada were quick to point out that it is indeed not native to this continent but was rather introduced from points abroad as early as the 1600’s.  That makes it a great deal more Canadian than most of us, I daresay.

They all agree that Cirsium arvense is a perennial plant with not only a taproot but a spreading lateral root system from which new plants sprout. So even if you can cut it down before it seeds it can still come back to haunt you next year.

On the plus side, many butterflies and moths feed from the flowers, Goldfinches like the seeds, and best of all the plant is humanly edible- leaf, stalk, and taproot. (though the taproot contains an indigestible starch that can ferment and cause gas).

So should thistles irritate you overly it is possible to take revenge, and benefit at the same time.  This link, lavishly illustrated with full-colour photographs, will walk you through the basics of harvesting, and cooking  thistles for Thistle Soup,  It generally speaks up for “this nasty little plant.”

And I, I will provide you with photographs for identification for whatever purpose.

First the bud

Then the first hint of coming purple

And finally the flower- plus fan

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