This section is from the book "Sub-Alpine Plants Or Flowers Of The Swiss Woods And Meadows", by H. Stuart Thompson. Also available from Amazon: Sub-Alpine Plants: Or, Flowers of the Swiss Woods and Meadows.
Stem erect, simple, 6 inches to 2 feet high. Root-leaves stalked, oblong or ovate; stem-leaves longer and narrower, all entire or slightly crenate, covered with a loose, cottony wool on the under side, like the stems. Flower-heads few, in a small terminal umbel, the peduncles starting from nearly the same point. Achenes downy. Flowers pale yellow.
Dry pastures and meadows, especially on limestone mountains such as those of the Jura; very local. July.
Jura, Maritime Alps, Southern Jura of Vaud only in Switzerland, Prussia, Central and Eastern Europe; rare in England.
A taller, cottony plant. Stem erect, simple, hollow, more or less covered with cottony wool like the leaves. Root-leaves oval, almost truncate at the base, or sometimes suddenly contracted into a broad-winged petiole; stem-leaves narrowed into a broad clasping petiole, upper ones lanceolate, sessile, and smaller. Achenes brownish, hispid with snow-white pappus.
This species closely resembles the last, but it grows in marshy places and mountain bogs. June.
In Switzerland widely spread but rather rare, and it is commoner in the central Jura district.1
1 Godet, Flore dujura (1853), P. 362.
Ray-flowers, female or neuter, in one row. Capitula solitary or in corymbs. Receptacle flat. Involucral bracts in several rows.
About a foot high, and resembling I. britannica, but with only one terminal capitulum, and leaves almost linear, not amplexicaul. The involucre is imbricate, and the fruit twice as large as in that species. Lower leaves oblong-lanceolate, longly petioled, and whole plant covered with whitish hairs. Capitulum large and handsome. Flowers bright yellow, the linear ligules being much longer than the involucral bracts, which are very unequal.
Dry, arid places on limestone in the Western Alps, Eastern Pyrenees, Spain, and Piedmont. Formerly near Martigny, but now not nearer Switzerland than the Aosta Valley. June, July.
Involucre ovoid or globose. Involucral bracts narrow, stiff, acuminate or spiny. Receptacle pitted, bristly. Flowers all tubular. Branches of style united into a tube with a ring of hairs at the base. Pappus feathery. Erect herbs with spiny leaves.
A very stout, handsome thistle, 3 feet high or more, with large and globular flower-heads in clusters of 2 or 3 at the ends of the branches. Leaves green and hairy above, white and cottony beneath, deeply pinnate, with narrow lobes ending in very sharp, stout prickles. Involucres covered with cottony wool, the numerous bracts ending in a narrow prickle. Corolla purple, rarely white.
Waste places and mountain pastures. June to August.
It ascends to about 5000 feet in the Alps, as, for example, about the village of Tour below the Col de Balme, where it is a handsome feature in the landscape.
Central and Southern Europe, as far as the Caucasus. Southern Britain.