Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Joy 72/82: Thistles

Thistles fascinate me.  It is one of the most showy and beautiful of wildflowers, sometimes lavishing whole fields with their bright pink beauty.  But they are also nasty, prickly things that are almost impossible to get rid of.  Even one flowerhead gone to seed will launch thistledown across the landscape where it quietly waits for its spring onslaught. states:  "In agriculture the Thistle is the recognized sign of untidiness and neglect, being found not so much in barren ground, as in good ground not properly cared for. It has always been a plant of ill repute among us; Shakespeare classes 'rough Thistles' with 'hateful Docks,' and further back in the history of our race we read of the Thistle representing part of the primeval curse on the earth in general, and on man in particular, for - 'Thorns also and Thistles shall it bring forth to thee.'"
It is interesting to think of the thistle as a curse on man ... cursed by beauty that draws us closer; stung by needles that drive us back.  Butterflies love the nectar of its flowers; finches love the seeds but its aggressive nature sets it at odds with its neighbors.  Thistles don't place nice; they take over and crowd out less hardy species.  Perhaps thistles aren't just a curse on man but a metaphor for man's relationship with the earth.  Maybe we are the planet's thistles, beautiful but noxious weeds threatening the environmental balance wherever we go.


  1. Isn't it fascinating how a thing of beauty can have a dark side, too?

  2. Silly. I keep thinking of Tigger, and how he finally learned how much he DIDN't like the thistles that Eeyore loved so well. At least, I THINK that's how it went... Anyway, whenever I see a thistle I feel all bouncy inside...