Thistle: Waiting for the Train

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The Beacon train station. Waiting around for the train to New York City on a chilly damp day.

It’s a long wait, and the train is running late, and the commuters are starting to grumble. Nothing to do but scout around for some interesting plant life.

Over here in the rocks (which were carefully placed to keep weeds from growing) is a nice healthy cluster of thistle 001

Not unlike commuters, thistles are aggressive and prickly. You have to be a bit prickly, to survive in a train station.

nyc 002Thistles have survival down to a science. They’re dandelion relatives, members of the Asteraceae, as you can see by the jagged leaves. They have the same long taproot as dandelions, and the same ability to germinate in habitats that you’d think a cactus couldn’t survive in. But unlike dandelions, thistles are armed with needles. Not much in the way of predators will dare to munch on these leaves.

This is a forbidding, dry habitat, here among the rocks. But look how the leaves are slightly creased in the middle. nyc 004Every speck of rainwater runs down the leaf’s center vein, and is funneled straight to the roots. Not a drop is wasted.

Prickly?? Who you callin’ prickly?!?

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About unmowed

I'm a writer and a botanist who loves the weirdly weedy places of the world.
This entry was posted in adaptations, leaves, plant parts, Uncategorized, winter and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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