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18 October 2010

Thistles

These thistles were collected in spring 2010 from the countryside in Tunisia.  At the time these photographs were taken I was not blogging so that is why I have left it until now to do a blog post about them.  Their vibrant purple colour is absolutely stunning.  I was reading through the Wikipedia entry on thistles http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thistle it is interesting to learn the following about this plant/weed; "Thistle is the common name of a group of flowering plants characterised by leaves with sharp prickles on the margins, mostly in the family Asteraceae. Prickles often occur all over the plant - on surfaces such as those of the stem and flat parts of leaves. These are an adaptation that protects the plant against herbivorous animals, discouraging them from feeding on the plant. Typically, an involucre with a clasping shape of a cup or urn subtends each of a thistle's flowerheads."

I was also unaware that the thistle is the national flower of Scotland.  "In the language of flowers, the thistle (like the burr) is an ancient Celtic symbol of nobility of character as well as of birth, for the wounding or provocation of a thistle yields punishment. For this reason the thistle is the symbol of the Order of the Thistle, a high chivalric order of Scotland.  Another story is that a bare foot Viking attacker stepped on one at night and cried out, so alerting the defenders of a Scottish castle.  Whatever the justification, the national flower of Scotland is the thistle. It is found in many Scottish symbols and as the name of several Scottish football clubs. Carnegie Mellon University features the thistle in its crest."



Figure 1:  Thistles collected from the countryside in Tunisia in spring 2010.  Species unknown.
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