Don't Underestimate the Lowly Thistle!

Posted Monday September 14, 2020

The pink/magenta beauty of Tall Thistles (Cirsium altissimum) comes into full force at the end of summer.  Our native Tall Thistles should not be confused with non-native, noxious weeds, such as Musk Thistle.  Tall Thistles contribute energetically to the prairie ecosystem.   With their lavish production of nectar and pollen, they attract hungry visitors--hummingbirds, bees, moths, and butterflies:

 

Some insects specialize in thistles, such as the gorgeous Paracantha flies.   Here several members of the fruit-fly family meet and greet on Tall Thistles.   You can see some pairing up for the famous fruit-fly courting ritual, which involves "kissing": 

 

Mama Paracantha chooses a thistle bud and seeks out the parts that are at just the right stage to host her eggs.   When her young ones hatch, they will be surrounded by thistle blossom--the very food they need:  

 

Never disparage native thistles.   Plant them!   Ecologically, they are a treasure.

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