Thistledown

Today I was sitting at my computer working on several things, when suddenly my email inbox went crazy.  It was filling up with “Likes” and comments on my blog!  Thank you, everyone!  It really made my day when I found out that I’d been Freshly Pressed.  What a fun and exciting honor!  It made it a little too easy to find things I love today, but that’s a problem I can live with.

There is a field by my house that I drive by almost every day and I often wonder about it.  It looks like someone takes care of it at times, but not always.  All winter it was full of some type of tall grass, and I was going to take photos of that.  Of course, the day I planned to do it, I came home to find someone mowing it all down.  Today as I was going past it, I noticed a thistle growing by the side of the road and quickly pulled over, expecting to just take a shot or two of the lonely looking thistle.

As I got out of the car, I noticed that there was a clump of thistle around the other side of a tree, then saw that the whole field was full of them!  Well, I’m not sure whether they are there on purpose or not.  Thistles are apparently a nuisance plant around here, but as I said, someone seems to take some care of this field, and they look almost purposeful.

Whether they are there for a reason or not, I find them absolutely wonderful.  The prickly leaves and rosette pattern they grow in are fascinating.  The flowers are unusual, but beautiful.  Purple and prickly, then fading to pale brown and finally turning to downy white seeds.

The thistledown is similar to dandelion seeds, but much larger.  Dandelions have a single hair with spikes at the end of the seeds that help them to float longer distances, but the thistledown is hairier looking, with several hairs attached to each seed.

For animals who are willing to get past the spines, thistles can be good food.  In fact, the wonderful artichoke is a member of the thistle family, although unfortunately, not the kind growing in this field.  As far as I know, artichokes won’t grow in Florida, a fact that makes me so, so sad.  Fortunately, California is generous with shipping those wonderful flowers to us, so I can usually buy them even if I can’t pick them in the wild.

*****

Apparently, thistles make bees very happy.  There were bees all over these flowers, busily working them over to gather pollen and hopefully make some wonderful honey.  Some of the bees looked almost drunk with their love of this pollen, and not one of them was interested in photographers at all.  Of course, honey bees seldom are interested in people and generally won’t sting at all, unless their hive is directly threatened.

Maybe this field of thistles was planted, or at least left to grow unchecked, for the bees to feast in.  It seems to me that the honey from these thistles would be wonderful, although I’ve never seen thistle honey .  I didn’t see any hives, though, so I am left to wonder.

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One thought on “Thistledown

  1. Great post! That Thistle grows in the open field behind us too. The flower is SO pretty and they Gulf Flittery butterflies seem to like it too.

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