Sunday, 12 August 2018

carlina acaulis

Taking a walk through the woods, I noticed in a few select spots, along the verge of the path and outside the places dappled by shadow a sort of silvery thistle that while sticking me as somehow very familiar seemed still an exotic treat. Afterwards I learned that these flowers are indeed called a silver thistle (die Silber- oder Rhöndistel being native to Alpine regions and this area), differing from their more common, stalked relatives due to having no stem (a-caulis), an incidence of what’s called inflorescence where the blossom comes directly out of the leaves.
Wanting to protect its relatively exposed pollen supply safe until a bee or butterfly comes along, the thistle will close up the flower presaging rain showers as was a traditional way of forecasting the weather—especially as the plant is likely to flower in August through September. The plant, as with other thistle varieties, was important for folk medicine for its recognised antimicrobial and diuretic properties, as well as being edible—the thistle being the undomesticated version of the artichoke.
I also realised where the image of the flower came from: for years we’ve been using up a particular notepad for shopping and to-do lists whose edges are printed with patterns in Nature, with the silver thistle as one of the examples of precision engineering and design.