Benedict's Thistle, Our Lady's Thistle, Bitter Thistle, Spotted Thistle.
Time of bloom: May to August.
Seed-time: June to September.
Range: New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to Pennsylvania, Maryland, and the Southern States; also on the Pacific Coast.
Habitat: Pastures, roadsides, waste places.
The Blessed Thistle is a native of Asia. It is said that returning Crusaders brought the plant into Europe because of its medicinal qualities, and for the same reason it came with the early settlers to America. It is still the principal ingredient of "bitter tonics," and its leaves and flowering tops, collected in their first bloom and quickly dried, are quoted in the drug market at six to eight cents a pound. (Fig. 359.)
Stem fifteen to thirty inches tall, stout, erect, much branched, and softly woolly. Leaves alternate, three to six inches long, lance-shaped in outline but deeply cut and lobed, the margins toothed and very spiny; they are rather thin, net-veined, hairy, the lower ones narrowing to margined petioles, the upper ones sessile and clasps ing. Heads large, solitary, terminal, closely surrounded by the upper leaves, deep yellow, about two inches broad, the florets all tubular, those in the central part perfect and fertile, those around the margin shorter than the others and sterile; involucre ovoid, its bracts imbricated in several rows, the outer ones ovate and leathery, the inner ones lance-shaped and tipped with long, rigid, pinnately branched, reddish yellow spines. Achenes oblong, ridged, crowned with a double pappus, the inner row of short, fine, white hairs, the outer one of stiff, yellow bristles, about twice as long.
Being annual, the persistent prevention of seed development will suppress the weed, and, if its leaves and budding flowers can be sold for enough to pay for the labor required, so much the better.