MELANCHOLY THISTLE

Cirsium heterophyllum

Daisy & Dandelion Family [Asteraceae]  

Flowers:
month8jun month8june month8jul month8july month8Aug month8sep month8sept month8Oct

Pappus: pappusZpossible (white)
pappus8sep pappus8sept pappus8oct pappus8nov

status
statusZnative
flower
flower8purple flower8red
inner
inner8lilac
inner
inner8white
morph
morph8actino
petals
petalsZmany
stem
stem8round

10th June 2009, Extinct Railway, Newbiggin on Lune, Smardale. Photo: © RWD
Straight upright stalks branch, if at all, only near the very top to display a small bunch of flowerheads. Flowerheads are very few, and always upright, never drooping. Many specimens are un-branched and with just one solitary (thus melancholic) flower head.


10th June 2009, Extinct Railway, Newbiggin on Lune, Smardale. Photo: © RWD
The leaves are Lanceolate, light green, and appear singly and sparsely up the stem, clasping it.


10th June 2009, Extinct Railway, Newbiggin on Lune, Smardale. Photo: © RWD
A low, young plant.


10th June 2009, Extinct Railway, Newbiggin on Lune, Smardale. Photo: © RWD
The stalks become much paler near the flower head.


10th June 2009, Extinct Railway, Newbiggin on Lune, Smardale. Photo: © RWD
An as yet un-opened flower head, with red-tipped scales or bracts (actually phyllaries). The phyllaries are at first green, but turn purplish-black when they open. The stems are grooved/ribbed (depending upon your point of view) and densely covered in white cottony hairs appressed to the surface.


10th June 2009, Extinct Railway, Newbiggin on Lune, Smardale. Photo: © RWD
Top of un-opened flower head.


10th June 2009, Extinct Railway, Newbiggin on Lune, Smardale. Photo: © RWD
A head in flower. The 5-star purple disc-florets can more easily be seen on those disc florets partially obscuring the dark phyllaries.


6th July 2016, extinct railway line, Newbiggin on Lune, Smardale. Photo: © RWD
Any flowerheads below that at the summit of the main stem open slightly later (but none fully open to beyond the usual thistle 'shaving brush' stage).


6th July 2016, extinct railway line, Newbiggin on Lune, Smardale. Photo: © RWD
A bottom-up approach:
The stem is covered in dense short cottony hairs.
The phyllaries are numerous, overlapping, long and narrow, with a raised mid-rib and taper to a point. at first greenish, turning purple then dark-purple/black.
This specimen has the white pappus hairs visible; the seeds are not yet visible, hidden deep inside the phyllaries.
Typical of thistles, there are only disc florets, no rayed florets, which are purple with the usual 5 'petals'.
Up the centre of the disc florets is a longer and paler styles, better seen on other photos above. (Your Author doesn't know where the anthers are)


6th July 2016, extinct railway line, Newbiggin on Lune, Smardale. Photo: © RWD
The phyllaries darken.


6th July 2016, extinct railway line, Newbiggin on Lune, Smardale. Photo: © RWD
White pappus hairs and long paler-purple styles.


6th July 2016, extinct railway line, Newbiggin on Lune, Smardale. Photo: © RWD
Perhaps the anthers are also white and well below the tips of the style, surrounding it?


6th July 2016, extinct railway line, Newbiggin on Lune, Smardale. Photo: © RWD
The phyllaries and fine pappus hairs.


6th July 2016, extinct railway line, Newbiggin on Lune, Smardale. Photo: © RWD
The basal leaves of Melancholy Thistle are large, some longer than your Authors boot. (He was about to fall over in this photo, having lost balance whilst trying to hold his foot near the leaves).


10th June 2009, Extinct Railway, Newbiggin on Lune, Smardale. Photo: © RWD
The underside of the leaves are white with dense cottony hairs.


6th July 2016, extinct railway line, Newbiggin on Lune, Smardale. Photo: © RWD
Even the longest teeth on Melancholy Thistle are short and relatively soft; not at all prickly. Note the winged stems and the tapering central vein.


6th July 2016, extinct railway line, Newbiggin on Lune, Smardale. Photo: © RWD
These are the closest Melancholy Thistle can get to prickly barbs (they are quite soft).


Hybridizes with : Marsh Thistle (Cirsium palustre) to produce (Cirsium × wankelii).

Uniquely identifiable characteristics: Amongst other thistles, Melancholy Thistle has straight, grooved stalks becoming whiter towards the often solitary upright flower. The stems are otherwise without prickles. The leaves look similar to those of sow-thistles in that there are no sharp spines and even the slightly toothed edges are not sharp enough to pierce skin, and are a cottony white beneath.

The 'heterophyllum' part of its binomial name is a reflection on its leaves, which are of two different kinds, being reduced, not winged on the upper part of the plant.

Uncommonly for a thistle any spines are very short and soft, and appear only on the much larger lower leaves. It is native and grows on grassland (as here), on scrub, in open woodland, by streams - usually in hilly countryside. It is locally common occurring from Derbyshire north to the tip of Scotland and beyond, with just a few locations in North & Mid-Wales. It is totally absent in much of Southern England south of Derbyshire.


  Cirsium heterophyllum  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Asteraceae  

Distribution
family8Daisy family8Dandelion  family8Asteraceae

 BSBI maps
genus8Cirsium
Cirsium
(Thistles)

MELANCHOLY THISTLE

Cirsium heterophyllum

Daisy & Dandelion Family [Asteraceae]  

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