Though most consider the bull thistle to be a noxious weed, I have always been fond of this prickly plant. Of course, I can understand why cattle farmers loathe it, as it tends to spread easily throughout grazing fields by way of its downy seeds. Cows won’t touch it. I found out why when I got too close while taking these shots. Ouch. If only it repelled deer as it does cows—I’d plant a bull thistle hedgerow! However, I’ve read that deer find it tasty. I wish they’d eat our bull thistles instead of our rhododendrons, hostas, and my little patch of ginseng.
But as you can see, butterflies and bees love it. Goldfinches do, too. I can see them eating the seeds from my window. I love how the goldfinch clings and keeps eating as the bull thistle bends over from its weight. Unfortunately, I only have a cheap little point-and-shoot without much of a lens, so I can never get a photograph of that. I’ve also seen hummingbirds hovering over the thistles, but getting a picture of them seems equally hopeless.
But most of the time, at least, the butterflies and bees tolerate my clumsy intrusions.
The butterfly below that looks like it’s been sprinkled with gold fairy dust is called a fritillary. I always want to say “flitterary” instead. Sounds more appropriate somehow. And, of course, everyone recognizes the lovely monarch (the top photo). The brilliant blue-winged one to the right is a swallowtail, and the little guy below,with the thick, cigar-butt body, is a skipper, I think.
It’s funny—the more I learn about nature, the more I become aware of how little I know! It’s daunting, yet thrilling to recognize that there are thousands of plants, birds, and insects out there waiting for me to learn their names.