False Purple Thistle

The False Purple Thistle is actually an Eryngo (Eryngium leavenworthii)  But it looks exactly like a thistle, at least to my untrained eye.  The definition of a thistle:  Any of numerous weedy plants, chiefly of the genera Cirsium, Carduus, or Onopordum of the composite family, having prickly leaves and variously colored flower heads surrounded by prickly bracts.

So look at these pictures and you’ll understand my confusion at its being a “false” thistle.

But I trust the botanists to know their stuff.  A strange phenomenon to me is how weeds and wildflowers spring up in the piled up caliche along the roads.  Many of the county roads in Texas are sand or clay or caliche, depending on the available native soil.  Ours happens to be caliche.  The roads are graded periodically and the excess powdery rock piles up along the edges.

Out of those rocks and caliche grows all sorts of plants – many with parts that “bite”.  The false purple thistle is a good example.  In the late summer, they appear with their dusty grey green heads and leaves.  The leaves green up and the heads and brackets turn various shades of purple.

They find a comfortable home among all the other prickly plants.  The small tree to the left is a native red bud.  Because the county trucks come around to cut or hack down growth beside the roads, these trees never reach their full natural height.  But it’s necessary to keep the brush cut down to lower fire risks.The False Purple Thistle can grow up to four feet tall.  They look spindly but don’t fall over.  They certainly don’t get much water for their root system, either.

Thistles are used in dried flower arrangements.  Personally, I prefer just to enjoy them in their natural environment.  Even with gloves, it’s not a pleasant chore to cut and gather them or place them in with other dried plants.

“Everything has its beauty but not everyone sees it.”  Unknown

1 thought on “False Purple Thistle

  1. Saw these purple thistles at Devine Lake in Leander Texas. Had never seen them before and found them fascinating. Reminded me of little pineapples!

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