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Thistles – Starting a Year-Long Study

Bull Thistle with Insect
September 2011 Thistles – Yosemite

Our thistle study started way back at the beginning of September when we were on a family camping trip to Yosemite National Park. I had the foresight to start our study when we came across a patch of bull thistles when we were looking for milkweed. We were able to begin our study with the beautiful purple flowers along with the insects that were enjoying the blossoms.

Thistles brown heads
Thistles along our walking trail

This was to set the stage of a whole season of thistle observations, ending this last week with the study of the rather brown sad looking plants that live alongside our walking trail.

Thistle Heads dry
Dried Thistles…thinking they are actually quite lovely

We took time to see how the seeds were now visible and the goldfinches were seen every now and then perched on top, snatching seeds for a snack. The birds didn’t seem to mind that the pretty purple flowers were mostly gone and munched their seeds oblivious to on-lookers.

Thistles - brown
Bull thistles and star thistles (yellow ones)

Seed gathering wasn’t easy because they were guarded by the prickly thorns. Funny how the birds did not mind the prickles but when we would try to grasp the flower and pull the seeds, we flinched back in pain. Those thorns are sharp! We managed to get a few fluffy seeds home and then we looked at them closely.

What an amazing structure! My dear husband managed to resurrect our microscope which I thought was beyond repair and we had a close look at the seeds.

Thistles blooming purple
Thistles in various stages

We decided to keep an eye on our thistle patch to see the cycle of life in its entirety. This would make a wonderful year-long study so I will add it to the list for our winter work. I will make sure to remind you all to revisit your thistle patch. I think a Year-Long Thistle Study notebook page is in order. I will share when I finish it.

Autumn Landscape
Stopped to enjoy the view on today’s walk.

What a joy to take a nice long walk on a warm autumn afternoon…if it would only last. 🙂

2 thoughts on “Thistles – Starting a Year-Long Study

  1. How wonderful, our family enjoyed studying a very large thistle plant in our garden from spring through fall, and recently also observed one on a nature walk, we also gathered the seed from the one in our garden to work with next year. Very beautiful plant, and fun to study, I had fun blogging about our thistles progress. I always enjoy hearing about your nature studies 🙂

  2. Thistles are so common on our area, I wondered the same thing about the birds and how they can sit atop them. What a contrast between the gorgeous vibrant purple and the dead dry brittle. Thank you for this post! It made me aware of what a great study they can be in our nature journals.

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