Thistles tend to have a bit of a bad rep, what with all the spikey, stinging bits. The good news is that our native thistles tend to be less spikey/stingy than, say, Bull Thistle, and even better, they are an excellent food source for bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other small birds. Our American Goldfinch (Spinus tristus) especially love the tiny seeds of Cirsium discolor.
Known as field thistle or pasture thistle, this native is a biennial, which means that the individual plant completes its life cycle in two years, and typically reseeds in the right location. Ideally suited in a meadow location with medium-dry soil and full sun, the height of this plant will also do well in the back of a garden bed, attracting pollinators and leading them straight to the buffet that is a native landscape.
C. discolor is a later blooming plant, providing necessary food in the late summer/early fall months as other blossoms begin to wane. It is the larval host plant for the beautiful Painted Lady butterfly as well as a support for the at-risk bumbles Bombus fervidus and Bombus vagans.
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Cirsium discolor (Field thistle)
SIZE: deep pot, slightly more than 1/2 quart type: biennial sun needs: sun, part sun/part shade water needs: dry, average height: 6' plant spacing: 1/sq foot bloom time: August, September, October bloom color: pink
good plant companions
New York ironweed
edible parts: roots, inner stems, young leaves, young inner parts of flower buds and seeds. Please research before consuming. deer resistant (please note that does not mean deer proof)