Still Beautiful (14)
|On the way back from the beach one late afternoon, we walked through a patch of tall marsh reeds. A stand of dried thistle blooms attracted my eye. The plant silhouetted in the background is the wild anise. |
Of more than 200 kinds of thistle distributed over the northern hemisphere, there are about 75 in the United States, including some 50 in the west and southwest.
Thistles are the armored knights of the vegetable kingdom. Their
leaves, bristling with needle-sharp spines, protect them from grazing
and browsing animals, so that in closely cropped pastures we
commonly see tall thistles standing here and there. A burro or donkey,
however, will nip off the flower heads and chew them with relish. Bumblebees and butterflies, which have long tongues, feast on the
nectar at the base of those tubular flowers.