I was walking back from the Badger sett yesterday evening and it was miserable and cold and then suddenly the wind cleared the sky and everything lit up.
I am just going to do the three species most commonly encountered around here and they are the Spear Thistle, Marsh Thistle and the one above that we call Creeping thistle.
Starting with Cirsium arvense, the Creeping Thistle, you may know it as the Canadian Thistle. Wikiwotsit also offers the names “Lettuce From Hell Thistle” and “Cursed Thistle” but I think that we can discount those, I think Wiki makes a lot of this stuff up.
The flowers are paler than the other two but that isn’t a lot of help if you are not used to seeing them. The clincher is that the stems are bare of prickles, the other two are very prickly. It has very prickly leaves, shorter and stubbier than the others but look for the bare stems that is the give away.
Cirsium palustre, The Marsh Thistle. It has multiple smallish flowers a bit like the creeping thistle. There are even more of them and they are a darker colour. The leaves are much longer and thinner and it has a very prickly stem. If it has a prickly stem it is not a Creeping Thistle. The leaves also often have a purple tinge or purple edges.
Cirsium vulgare, the national flower of Scotland and one of DEFRA’s “Injurious Weeds”, There is an Act of Parliament against this flower (also the Creeping Thistle) and you can be fined £1000 for allowing it to spread on your land. Also you can be shot for it (I think) Needless to say this is the one that I love the best. (My Mother was Scottish)
This is a large thistle with a big flower. The leaves are spear shaped and once you have seen a few it is unmistakeable even as a puppy.