Cirsium discolor – Pasture Thistle

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In late summer this native thistle adds a touch of pastel to a prairie dominated by gold and yellow. Its presence throughout the preserve helps to sustain insects dependent on nectar for nourishment. Migrating hummingbirds too find sustenance from the thistle’s array of tubular flowers.

Its leaves are an excellent food source for the hungry caterpillars of the Painted Lady butterfly. Her green barrel shaped eggs can sometimes be found on the topside of the leaves. And as summer wanes and the thistles go to seed, they will attract squadrons of hungry goldfinches. The down of the thistle has been found in the diminutive winter dwellings of the prairie deer mice.

How can you tell the native thistle from the more aggressive alien thistle? Check the underside of a leaf. If it is powdery white or silver-like, then you are looking at a true prairie native. The flower of the non-native is closer in color to purple rather than pink.

Pollinators: Bumblebee, Monarch, Tiger Swallowtail, and Great Spangled Fritillary All of the pictures below  were taken at Wolf Road Prairie.

Photos courtesy of Fidencio Marbella