Friday, August 28, 2015
Leconte's Thistle - Cirsium lecontei
Leconte's thistle is a perennial herb that dies back to its basal leaves in winter. The lower leaves are narrow - up to 12 inches long, but only about 1 inch wide. The young leaves are velvety in appearance with a dense matted covering of white hairs. The upper leaves are smaller than the basal ones, but are still long and narrow in appearance. Like other thistles, they are armed with stout spines along the leaf margins and stems.
Flowering occurs in mid-summer to early fall. The photos above were taken 13 August 2015 at the upper edge of a pitcher plant bog in Apalachicola National Forest. The leafless flower stalk reaches a mature height of 2-4 feet and the urn-shaped inflorescence is composed of light pink to pinkish purple flowers. These are quite attractive and, like all thistles, are especially favored by a wide variety of pollinating insects.
Thistles are generally considered a nuisance in the landscape because of their thorny nature and tendency to spread. As such, they tend not to be grown commercially and, in some states outside of Florida, it is even illegal to propagate them. Nevertheless, thistles have great value in a pollinator garden - managed by a gardener willing to contain them. Thistles are easily grown from seed collected in late fall and sown just below the soil surface. Leconte's thistle should not be grown outside its natural range and requires sun and moist soils to prosper.