Alright Everybody, Stay Calm, Thistle Only Take A Moment!

I had a plant miraculously appear about 5 years ago in my yard and although I found it compelling, I had no idea of what it was called.  It was obviously a member of the thistle family but I did not plant it or really nurture it.  I used it in a few bouquets and people would ask me what it was but I could not give them an answer.  I saved some seeds under the label of Weird Thistle Plant as I quite liked it but the first year I tried to grow it I had no success.  I placed some in a seed tray and put a small amount of soil over it and left it at that.  Last year when I planted it in the seed tray and left uncovered and waited to see what would happen, well yes, it germinated.  I planted a fair amount of it in a flower bed and waited.  The first year I had good vegetative growth but none of the thistle heads I wanted for my flower arrangements.  This year, its second, I have stunning 8 foot high plants with multiple heads for many flower arrangements to come!  By chance a man who was passing through the market heard my response to a client that I was unaware of the name of the inclusion to my bouquet and he readily answered the question.  The plant is called Teasel and he even provided some interesting information about what the plant was once used for.  Of course I had to look into it further and found some interesting information.  

Teasel is a herbaceous biennial plant that will grow to stunning hight,  and it will grow in soil from sandy to heavy  clay  It is viciously thorny and I handle it with leather gloves until I remove the thorns from the stock.  It has an interesting look and dries and remains interesting.  It has brackets around the head that not only can hold a small amount of water but will also trap pollinators and other insects.  These trapped insects actually enhance seed production therefore making these plants carnivorous.  Is does flower but only once before it dies, these flowers only lasting for a day before leaving the dried heads I found so compelling.  But I do warn you that it is invasive and my husband is not impressed with where he has found it sprouting.

Teasel is native to parts of Europe, Asia and North Africa and now is cultivated in other parts of the world.  It was used in it’s earlier years in the textile industry to raise the nap on fabrics especially wool.   The dried flower heads were attached to wheels called Teasel Frames and rolled over the wool cloth.  Over time it was replaced with metal cards that were simpler to use and lasted longer but some weavers still say that Teasel does a superior job and does not rip the cloth should it meet resistance.

The seeds provide good forage for birds and the roots of this plant are harvested in autumn the root being sliced and dried and made into teas, tinctures, powders and pill that are available in health food stores and these have been found to provide many health benefits most amazingly is its use in the treatment of Lyme disease.  It is able to force the bacterium from the cells affected by the infection back into the blood stream where our natural immunity and the use of antibiotics can actually defeat it and it is being used widely now and with great results.  Some of the other ailments that can be treated by this plant range from pain relief, digestive health, bone and ligament healing to Alzheimers, depression, and arthritis to name a few.  The Chinese name for the plant means to restore what is broken.  Here I thought it was just another pretty plant that I called a weird thistle.

Happy Gardening and stay out of the heat!

Happy Gardening

Samantha Nason
BS Ranch & Greenhouses
250 547 6567 • samanthanason@hotmail.com