Appalachia Folklore

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Thistles

My life in appalachia - Thistles

Thistles are pretty, unless they stick you then not so much. In this book I learned thistles can be used to protect your home from burglars and from evil. Just plant some near the doors and that should do the trick.

Whenever I’m wondering about a wildflower I check my favorite wildflower book: “Wild Flowers Worth Knowing”, written and published by Neltje Blanchan in 1917. This is what the book had to say about thistles:

Is land fulfilling the primal curse because it brings forth thistles? So thinks the farmer, no doubt, but not the goldfinches which daintily feed among the fluffy seeds, nor the bees, nor the “painted lady,” which may be seen in all parts of the world where thistles grow, hovering about the beautiful rose-purple flowers. In the prickly cradle of leaves, the caterpillar of this thistle butterfly weaves a web around its main food store.

When the Danes invaded Scotland, they stole a silent night march upon the Scottish camp by marching barefoot; but a Dane inadvertently stepped on a thistle, and his sudden, sharp cry, arousing the sleeping Scots, saved them and their country; hence the Scotch emblem.

Hmmm. Knowing the Thistle saved a country makes you look at it a little differently doesn’t it?


Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.


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  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    September 20, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    they are a pretty flower. I have actually made Christmas ornaments out of the dried ones – very prickly they are.

  • Reply
    September 20, 2011 at 9:57 am

    They are so pretty and definitely my favorite color for a flower. Great photo.

  • Reply
    Mary Rutherford
    September 19, 2011 at 11:06 pm

    I taught my students to write acrostic poetry today so I thought I would join in with a homage to the beloved Thistle:
    The thistle blooms, at
    Home in fields where
    Inspired, the poets call it their
    Scottish darling…
    True love that reflects in the
    Loch’s cold depths and
    Embroiders violet the meadow.
    -Mary Rutherford-

    • Reply
      Susan Blackwell
      September 19, 2019 at 9:22 am


  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    September 19, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    Mother Nature’s good-by to summer is so lovely. Somedays I feel that she is trying to compensate us for the winter ahead!

  • Reply
    September 19, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    Prickly they may be; but they’re a favorite of mine. I love the vibrant purple color!

  • Reply
    September 19, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    Yes, it does!
    How neat is that?!

  • Reply
    Uncle Al
    September 19, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    Nice picture. Unfortunate for this plant is its “sticky” reputation.

  • Reply
    September 19, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    love the beautiful flower. but, i was told many years ago that they are a member of the artchokes family. anyone know about that??

  • Reply
    September 19, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    Great post Tipper. A plant that grows here in Oklahoma that looks somewhat like a thistle, but isn’t is Leavenworth’s Eryngo (also called Pineapple Thistle).
    It’s a member of the carrot family. It’s a beautiful deep purple….but you need gloves to ‘pick’ a bouquet! If hung upside down to dry, they keep their color in dry arrangements.

  • Reply
    September 19, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Nice picture and so pretty to look
    at. I enjoyed the brief story of
    the Danes invading the Scots. I’m
    curious each day to see what we
    could be discussing, and from the
    most simple of God’s creation.

  • Reply
    September 19, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    Such a beautiful flower, only to deceive us. Here on the farm we hate thistles, for they make many, many seeds and hench, many, many barbs.

  • Reply
    Jackie @Syrup and Biscuits
    September 19, 2011 at 10:58 am

    Such a beautiful post! Beauty is often found in the most simple of things. Thank you for sharing this, Tipper!

  • Reply
    Laura Cunningham
    September 19, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Everything has a purpose. Last year my son’s first grade class did a big project on pill bugs/ rolly pollys. It was so interesting to hear about what their great purpose is in this world. Their bodies can digest metal. Who knew?

  • Reply
    Canned Quilter
    September 19, 2011 at 9:55 am

    i remember as a child walking the land with my father. We would walk toward the back of the property checking the state of the pastures and fences as we went. He would take out his pocketknife and cut the thistle stem then cut the flower off the end and peel it. Then share it with us kids. It tasted somewhat like celery.

  • Reply
    Elizabeth K
    September 19, 2011 at 9:47 am

    Beautiful photo Tipper. The book you mention, Wild Flowers Worth Knowing, is available from Barnes & Noble for Nook for 99 cents! If you have a Kindle, you can get it for free. Was it here that I heard about it? Perhaps you mentioned it before. In any event, it is an interesting little book.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 19, 2011 at 9:12 am

    What a lovely description. It sounds like a book you could just sit down and read for the joy of hearing the words.

  • Reply
    September 19, 2011 at 9:09 am

    The flowers are pretty but they sure are a nuisance. Think they also have medicinal purposes. Your book sounds interesting.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    September 19, 2011 at 8:40 am

    I always loved the Thistle..but very hard to pick a bouquet..ha
    We have the noxious Nodding Thistle around here..I don’t know if it’s true but heard a large one sticking in cattle legs can cripple them…I know my neighbor always kept an eye out for them in his pasture…
    Great post…I have done a painting or three of thistles…they are a very intriging plant form…
    Your picture is beautiful…
    Thanks Tipper..loved this post..

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    September 19, 2011 at 8:35 am

    Lovely picture of lovely, sneaky plant. One year driving through SC we were amazed at the riot of flowers along the road and in the medians. We stopped for gas,Iasked the lady @ the station what that flower was growing everywhere. She said “Deh be wildflowers” I asked again, saying yes, but what’s the name? She looked at me like I was not paying attention or worse and said “Deh BE WILDFLOWERS.” So we have a new catch phrase at home now 🙂 I did find out they were cosmos and have a plant or two in my “wildflower” planter.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    September 19, 2011 at 8:25 am

    Interesting post, especially about the significance to the Scots and the reason for it.
    Even in 1917, people referred to that people as “Scotch”. A Scot will correct us, reminding us that “Scotch” is a whisky (Scotch whisky is the only one I know of that “whisky” is spelled without an “e”). A person of Scotland is Scottish (adjective) or a Scot (noun), but never Scotch.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    September 19, 2011 at 7:49 am

    But, It is such a beautiful flower. Makes it worth it somehow.

  • Reply
    September 19, 2011 at 7:28 am

    Very interesting Tipper, thanks for the great read.

  • Reply
    September 19, 2011 at 7:27 am

    Tipper – That picture is beautiful. A sight that I needed this morning; What beautiful color! Wild flowers have always had a personality of their own; they know how to speak to the individual in a way that I feel that is superior to other flowers.
    As usual, your post is great.

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