Cotton Thistle

Onopordum acanthium

''Onopordum acanthium'' , is a flowering plant in the family Asteraceae. It is native to Europe and Western Asia from the Iberian Peninsula east to Kazakhstan, and north to central Scandinavia, and widely naturalised elsewhere. It is a vigorous biennial plant with coarse, spiny leaves and conspicuous spiny-winged stems.
Aboon the English Rose In Scotland grows a warlike flower, 
Too rough to bloom in lady's bower; 
His crest. when high the soldier bears, 
And spurs his courser on the spears. 
O there it blossoms - there it blows 
The thistle's grown aboon the rose.

(part of a poem named 'Aboon the rose' by Allan Cunningham [1784-1842]) Canon  EF12mm II,Cotton Thistle,Geotagged,Onopordum acanthium,The Netherlands,macro,soligor 12mm,soligor 20mm,soligor 36mm

Appearance

Cotton Thistle is a biennial plant, producing a large rosette of spiny leaves the first year. The plants typically germinate in the autumn after the first rains and exist as rosettes throughout the first year, forming a stout, fleshy taproot that may extend down 30 cm or more for a food reserve.

In the second year, the plant grows 0.5–2.5 m tall and a width of 1.5 m. The leaves are 10–50 cm wide, are alternate and spiny, often covered with white woolly hairs and with the lower surface more densely covered than the upper. The leaves are deeply lobed with long, stiff spines along the margins. Fine hairs give the plant a greyish appearance. The massive main stem may be 10 cm wide at the base, and is branched in the upper part. Each stem shows a vertical row of broad, spiny wings , typically 2–3 cm wide, extending to the base of the flower head.

The flowers are globe shaped, 2–6 cm in diameter, from dark pink to lavender, and are produced in the summer. The flower buds form first at the tip of the stem and later at the tip of the axillary branches. They appear singly or in groups of two or three on branch tips. The plants are androgynous, with both pistil and stamens, and sit above numerous, long, stiff, spine-tipped bracts, all pointing outwards, the lower ones wider apart and pointing downwards. After flowering, the ovary starts swelling and forms about 8,400 to 40,000 seeds per plant.
Cotton thistle- Onopordum acanthium. Flower head of cotton thistle . A common introduced weed in south east Australia. Australia,Cotton Thistle,Geotagged,Onopordum acanthium,Summer

Naming

Three subspecies are accepted:
⤷ ''Onopordum acanthium'' subsp. ''acanthium''. Most of the species' range.
⤷ ''Onopordum acanthium'' subsp. ''gautieri'' Franco. France, Spain.
⤷ ''Onopordum acanthium'' subsp. ''parnassicum'' Nyman. Greece.

The botanical name is derived from the Ancient Greek words ''onos'' , ''perdo'' , and ''acanthos'' , meaning 'thorny donkey food'.

The common name of Cotton Thistle derives from the cotton-like hairs on the leaves. Other names include Scots thistle or Scottish thistle, heraldic thistle and woolly thistle; the name Scots thistle comes from its status as the national emblem of Scotland.In the late 19th century, it was introduced to temperate regions of North America, South America, and Australia as an ornamental plant, and is now considered a major agricultural and wildland noxious weed. It has been recorded from nearly 50 countries. It is difficult to eradicate because of its drought resistance. It can spread rapidly and eventually dense stands prohibit foraging by livestock. Infestations of Cotton Thistle often start in disturbed areas such as roadways, campsites, burned areas, and ditch banks. The weed adapts best to areas along rivers and streams, but can be a serious problem in pastures, grain fields and range areas. A single Cotton Thistle is imposing enough, but an entire colony can ruin a pasture or destroy a park or campsite, sometimes forming tall, dense, impenetrable stands. Besides creating an impenetrable barrier to humans and animals, Cotton Thistle nearly eliminates forage use by livestock and some mammal species such as deer and elk.

Known infestations include most of the Pacific Northwest along with Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, Nebraska, and South Dakota. On western rangeland, infestations directly result in significant economic losses for ranchers. It is also widespread in Australia and New Zealand. In Australia it commonly hybridises with the related invasive Illyrian Thistle ''Onopordum illyricum''.
Thistledown/Cotton thistle Onopordum acanthium (Cotton thistle), is a flowering plant in the family Asteraceae. Asteraceae,Cotton Thistle,Onopordum acanthium,biennial,botanical,plant,thistledown,weed

Distribution

Cotton Thistle is native to Europe and Asia. The plant prefers habitats with dry summers, such as the Mediterranean region, growing best in sandy, sandy clay and calcareous soils which are rich in ammonium salts. It grows in ruderal places, as well as dry pastures and disturbed fields. Its preferred habitats are natural areas, disturbed sites, roadsides, fields, and especially sites with fertile soils, agricultural areas, range/grasslands, riparian zones, scrub/shrublands valleys and plains along with water courses. Temperature and moisture, rather than soil nutrient concentrations determine the ecological performance of Onopordum species.

In Europe, the plant tends to colonize disturbed pastures. In its native range, Cotton Thistle is considered a weak competitor that needs regeneration gaps to develop and maintain stands; populations tend to retreat when disturbance ceases. The plant has been widely introduced at mid-latitudes across much of North America.

Cotton Thistle can spread rapidly. For example, it was first found in Utah in 1963. By 1981, it covered approximately 6070 hectares in 17 counties. Eight years later, it had spread to cover more than 22,540 hectares in 22 counties.
cotton thistle  Cotton Thistle,Onopordum acanthium

Habitat

Cotton Thistle is native to Europe and Asia. The plant prefers habitats with dry summers, such as the Mediterranean region, growing best in sandy, sandy clay and calcareous soils which are rich in ammonium salts. It grows in ruderal places, as well as dry pastures and disturbed fields. Its preferred habitats are natural areas, disturbed sites, roadsides, fields, and especially sites with fertile soils, agricultural areas, range/grasslands, riparian zones, scrub/shrublands valleys and plains along with water courses. Temperature and moisture, rather than soil nutrient concentrations determine the ecological performance of Onopordum species.

In Europe, the plant tends to colonize disturbed pastures. In its native range, Cotton Thistle is considered a weak competitor that needs regeneration gaps to develop and maintain stands; populations tend to retreat when disturbance ceases. The plant has been widely introduced at mid-latitudes across much of North America.

Cotton Thistle can spread rapidly. For example, it was first found in Utah in 1963. By 1981, it covered approximately 6070 hectares in 17 counties. Eight years later, it had spread to cover more than 22,540 hectares in 22 counties.Cotton Thistle reproduces only by seeds. Most seeds germinate in autumn after the first rains, but some seeds can germinate year round under favourable moisture and temperature conditions. Seeds that germinate in late autumn become biennials. But when they germinate earlier, they can behave as annuals. Buried seed can remain viable in the soil seed bank for at least seven years and possibly for up to twenty years or more. Yearly seed production and seed dormancy are highly variable depending on environmental conditions. The slender and smooth achenes are about 3 mm long and are brown with gray markings. They are tipped with a pappus of slender bristles. Mainly locally dispersed by wind, or more widely by humans, birds, wildlife, livestock or streams, the seeds are sensitive to light and only germinate when close to the surface. Seedlings will emerge from soil depths up to 4.5 cm, with 0.5 cm being optimal. While some seeds will germinate in the dark, studies indicate that most germination occurs with alternating light/dark cycles, with 8 hours being the optimal day length.

The leaves of Cotton Thistle provide food for the caterpillars of some Lepidoptera, such as the Thistle Ermine .
thistle down the wind a field full of thistles,photograph taken in wales. Cotton Thistle,Onopordum acanthium

Uses

Cotton Thistle is grown as an ornamental plant for its bold foliage and large flowers. It has been used to treat cancers and ulcers and to diminish discharges of mucous membranes. The receptacle was eaten in earlier times like an artichoke. The cottony hairs on the stem have been occasionally collected to stuff pillows. Oil from the seeds has been used for burning and cooking.

References:

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Status: Unknown
EX EW CR EN VU NT LC
Taxonomy
KingdomPlantae
DivisionAngiosperms
ClassEudicots
OrderAsterales
FamilyAsteraceae
GenusOnopordum
Species