Canada Thistle – Success Breeds Contempt

There is no denying the beauty of the flowers of the  Canada Thistle. Unfortunately, the plant’s prickly nature and highly successful ability to propagate, have caused it to be labeled a noxious weed in most of Canada and about 35 U.S. States. Ironically, it isn’t even native to Canada, having come from the Mediterranean region and southeast Europe. It was likely a stowaway in contaminated hay and grain seed brought in during early colonization in the 17th century.


The early residents of New England (USA) blamed the appearance of the thistle on the French traders from Canada, but historians now believe the thistle arrived in both countries at about the same time. So, like the Canada Goose and Canadian Clipper storms, the thistle joined the ranks of things that Canadians might be blamed for.

When I looked for a quotation about the thistle, the most popular one by far was this one which shows the undesirability of the thistle in comparison to other flowers:

I want it said of me by those who knew me best, that I always plucked a thistle and planted a flower where I thought a flower would grow.
– Abraham Lincoln –

The only quotation with a positive spin compared the flight of Santa’s sleigh to the movement of blowing thistle seed.

He sprung to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle:
– Clement Clarke Moore,  A Visit from St. Nicholas, 1823 –

There are over 200 known varieties of thistle.  Which one is common where you live?

14 thoughts on “Canada Thistle – Success Breeds Contempt

    1. The Canada Thistle can have pink, purple or white flowers. I suppose thistles everywhere have a significant range of colours too!


    1. I know what you mean. We have a farm right behind us and I’m sure they put a lot of energy into keeping the thistles out of the crops.


    1. “A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.”
      Doug Larson
      Isn’t that a good comment about a weed’s qualities!?


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