Thank goodness its Friday! On Fridays I will post a photo from the ranch and discuss the subject. Take a gander and see if you can tell me what we are looking at…

Friend or Foe? I never considered this pesky plant as a friend, but the top google results all returned “milk thistle” as a herbal remedy for liver and gall bladder ailments. But another type of thistle is “bull thistle.” The desciption of this plant is more in line with my thoughts: NOXIOUS WEED. However, the bloom in this photo matches neither’s descriptions. Maybe someone more informed in plant nomenclature can give some assistance?

Which ever this plant may be, thistles are pesky plants. These weeds thrive in open, sunny areas, encroaching on open pastures and hay meadows. The thistle blooms in mid- to late-Spring, spreading its seeds across large areas. Overgrazing of pastures, road sides, and cleared timber patches make prime growing areas for the thistle. In a dense stand, these plants can reduce productivity and stocking levels of pastures.

Cirsium vulgare, bull thistle
Cirsium vulgare, bull thistle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have seen many methods of controling these plants over the years. Spot spraying chemicals (glyphosate, triclopyr or metsulfuron) tends to be effective but takes labor. I have even seen people chop the plant at ground level with a shovel and cover the plant base with feed salt. Works well till the cows come and lick up all of the salt. Too bad the cattle don’t eat these plants, because they’d sure have some good grazing.

Not sure whether it’s a milk, bull, Canada, or scotch thistle. Either way, here’s some facts on Thistles in general:

  • Thistles are belived to originte in Europe and were introduced to America in the 1800s
  • Thistles of all kinds are considered invasive, noxious weeds in several states
  • Medicinal uses include treating ailments related to liver and gall bladder damage, mushroom poisoning, and even as an appetite stimulant
  • The plant can reach 8 feet in height with leaves 2 foot long and 1 foot wide
  • Thistles have large pink to red blooms with large, deep taproots
Lets hope I never find thistles this tall in my pastures!

Have you had trouble with thistles of any kind? What methods of control have you found successful?

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