Prickley Heat


I’ve always loved the purple flowers of the bull thistle. Like a symbolic lesson of life, we witness the prickly leaves as they sprout, grow taller and more hazardous, and finally, after bare feet and ankles have endured their unexpected stabs, unfolds a beautiful purple flower.

During the last couple of summers, I allowed some of my volunteer thistles to grow tall (over 5 feet) and flower. Goldfinches, which I had never noticed before, came in close to pull at the flowerheads after they had gone to seed. I was thrilled at their sounds outside my window and enjoyed watching the unique flight pattern they have that takes that little dip down before pulling up on course again.

More thistles appeared last summer so I let some grow tall again (always in places where I could keep an eye on the goldfinches that came to eat.)

As the white fluff from around the seeds drifted across my lawn while the birds picked at the thistles blooms, wouldn’t you think I would grasp the reason most people don’t allow these prickly menaces to grow up in their yards?

This spring, many large, healthy thistle monsters took root early outside my house. Finally I saw that I had made a big mistake! My small thistle digger (one that came with an inexpensive set of trowels and a fork) bends when brought against these sturdy thistle roots. Two especially large plants that have escaped the mower are getting taller with every rain. I have to stop them before they bloom!

At the top of my shopping list, above the canned baked beans, the oatmeal, even the gerbil food is written thistle digger. I won’t find the heavy duty model I have in mind at a food store.

From now on I’ll look at the pictures of pretty thistle blooms in my wildflower books. The prickly leaves that crop up everywhere will have to go!


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