Overwhelming Wild Thistle

Berkheya erysithales, Overwhelming Wild Thistle;

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Staying on the theme of Wild Thistles, this is my favourite. My gardening endeavours tend to verge on the unconventional most of the time as I like to garden with, and for the other creatures that occupy this planet with us. This does not always endear me to my clients but that is life. I was paid the ultimate compliment recently by a client who had called the planting I had done for them “underwhelming”. Six months later, when the plants began to come into their own, they were at last happy. In these days of instant gratification, it is tricky to get plants to grow faster, although climate change is doing that now, with plants really growing vigorously right into April and May.

This plant does the job and it will overwhelm you in a short space of time. Give it ample space and keep it away from your bare legs or else you will have blood on the path. It is well-armed with sharpish spines that don’t embed themselves in your flesh - they just make a painful but neat little pin prick! I use these plants at the back of beds and along boundary walls. The spiny leaves will slow up the four-footed predators (giving the “tiny ten” a few seconds to make their escape) and will certainly discourage any two-footed ones.

The overwhelming wild thistle will grow in shade and sunlight and everything in between. It grows up into the Midlands but is happiest at the coast and escarpment. The plant will get up to about 1.5 metres tall and spread to about the same diameter. The heads of multiple yellow flowers - about 30mm in diameter - are spectacular and bring in many insects for the nectar and pollen
The seed set is good and the little angular, dark brown seeds get encased by the flower bracts. The best way of picking these seeds is using a pair of scissors to cut each stem and allow gravity to place the dead flower into a basket. The plant is a perennial in that it will flower in the second season after sowing. Once the seed is set, these plants tend to flop over, so pull them out, scatter the new seeds and wait for the next generation to germinate.

 

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