Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Melancholy thistle

1.  I am involved in talking to farmers about conservation, enhancement and restoration of hay meadows.  One plant which is distinctive, but very local, in the North is melancholy thistle, Cirsium heterophyllum.  A gap in communication became evident.  The farmers were not at all enthused about fostering a thistle – imagining no doubt creeping thistle, C. arvense, or spear thistle, C. vulgare.  One day a botanist and a farmer happened to meet beside a melancholy thistle.  On being told that this was melancholy thistle, the farmer expressed surprise. ‘Oh,’ said he, ‘We call that the shaving-brush flower’ – a very apt description [Arnside, Cumbria, May 2016].

Image:  Ivar Leidus, Wiki Commons.