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Cotton thistle (Onopordon acanthium)


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This robust plant pictured coming into flower grows on wasteground, in fields and on open land. The flower heads are large and usually solitary. The green wings of bracts are cottony and tipped with large yellowish spines, which may bend back. Its stem is winged and bears strong spines, the edges of the leaves are joined to the wing. The florets are pale purple and sometimes white. The leaves and the stem are covered in white cottony or woolly hairs. The leaves are large and stalkless. The cotton thistle has been put to many uses. Oil from its seeds is used in cooking and as fuel for lamps. The cottony hairs were collected for stuffing matresses and pillows back in the 1500's. It was once believed to cure cancer, rickets and nervous disorders. The stems can also be peeled, boiled and eaten with butter. Picture taken on 3rd June 2006 at Stevington, Bedfordshire

10th Jul 2006 by Diane Earl

Biology, Science

Key Stages:
Key Stage 1, Key Stage 2, Key Stage 3, Key Stage 4, Key Stage 4+

plant leaf wildlife medicine

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