Yellow Thistle (Carduus spinosissimus)

Yellow Thistle:
No-no to the Touch

By William T. Hathaway

Except for the thorny cactus plant this Yellow Thistle (Carduus spinosissimus) is the greatest no-no for a local nature-seeker to touch. Its arachnoid stem with its numerous leaves containing spread-out, needle-like spines place the species along with other untouchables — that is, plants that we donīt enjoy gathering or inspecting with our bare hands.

This thistle is up to 2-8 dm tall and is found scattered throughout Pittsylvania County in open woodlands and roadsides in late March and early June. Its related variety (C. horridulum) is common on the Virginia coastal plain. Since the flowers are yellow, we amateur naturalists feel confident as to its identification. The Latin specific name spinosissimus generally means “spiny to the utmost.”

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