Please don’t tip off the police.
This is a portrait of my pet thistle. If I am not mistaken, it goes by the name of Cirsium texanum Buckley. It grows next to my outside water tap. Those in the know will recognize it as one of those broad leaf weeds (shudder) you hear about on t.v. that we are supposed to kill on sight. Well, it arrived last year and claimed sanctuary. For better or worse I agreed to shelter it.
I realize some people think the Weed Police is a figment or fancy invented by the kind of people who still watch the X-Files, listen to George Noory or talk openly about conspiracies.
Yet. Only yesterday at a nearby apartment complex I saw several guys exit a mysterious white van. One of the thugs had a jet pack apparatus strapped to his back. Image: ghost buster. A hose was attached to the sloshing jetpack. The man sprayed some liquid onto the crispy lawn but it did not look or smell like water. Wake up people! The Weed Police are real. They walk among us. Be wary of men in white vans.
What’s the use of a thistle?
If colour and ease of care aren’t enough of a draw then you must be one of those PRACTICAL people who expect results and productivity. You probably even know how to use a spreadsheet. Count me impressed.
1. Food for wildlife
This thistle is the preferred food for painted lady butterfly larvae. They are one of my favourite butterflies because they can do tricks like jump onto your finger on command. Best thing ever to get kids interested in science and even win over the ones who are initially squickish about bugs.
Bumble bees are drawn to the pollen, butterflies like the nectar and goldfinches will eat the seeds. I have even heard some birds use the flowers to line their nests.
2. Improves Soil
This thistle is a biennial with a nice tap-root. If you have heavy compacted urban clay this is exactly the kind of plant you want to see growing on the land. The tap-root breaks up the soil allowing air and water passage. Where there is air and water, micro organisms have a chance to get established which turns inert clay into a happy place for plants to grow. Tap roots also draw up nutrients from deeper soil zones. When the thistle dies it will decompose and share those nutrients with neighbouring plants.
First they came …
So far, I have managed to keep the thistle hidden from the men in white vans. But really, people. We need to do more than just hide our friends. First, they came for the dandelions, and I did not speak up. Then they came for the milkweeds, and I did not speak up. Today it is the thistles. Tomorrow they will target our Brown Eyed Susans and Johnny Jump Ups. Stop the insanity. Show some courage and speak out. It is past time to stop the Weed Police.