Onopordum acanthium


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Common name: Cotton Thistle, Scotch thistle, Scottish thistle, Spear thistle 
 

Onopordum acanthium (Cotton thistle, Scotch thistle), 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.[1][2][3]  
It is a vigorous biennial plant with coarse, spiny leaves and conspicuous spiny-winged stems.[4]  
It 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 (0.2–) 0.5–2.5 (–3) 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 (conspicuous ribbon-like leafy material), 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.[4][5][6] 
It is grown as an ornamental plant for its bold foliage and large flowers.[13] 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.[14][15] 
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.[16] 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 plantis 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, the plant nearly eliminates forage use by livestock and some mammal species such as deer and elk.[17] 
(From Wikipedia on 20.6.13)
  


  
Onopordum acanthium from Kashmir, less common, mainly growing on Pampore Karewas.
Photographed on June 20 from Pampore, along National Highway.
Beautiful plant.
I really get confused with these Asteraceae members with spinescent heads.
So many of them.
Tricholepis
Carduus
Cirsium
Echinops
Breea (Just learnt that it is a synonum of Cirsium acc.to GRIN )
Dicoma
Serratula
and now this beautiful one Onopordum
on July 23 and 24, 2010 I had uploaded 10 different thistles under the subject line:
Kashmir thistles and similar plants-
 

  
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