Silybum marianum   Milk Thistle I

Silybum marianum whole Silybum marianum leaves

I was shown this plant many years ago in one location under some limestone cliffs on the Great Orme and thought of it as a bit of a rarity. Then, walking in the nearby Deganwy hills a few years ago in Spring, I noticed dozens of the typically marbled thistle leaves of Silybum marianum rosettes. These hills are covered in Milk Thistle and have Spear Thistle (Cirsium vulgaris), Creeping Thistle (Cirsium arvense), Seaside or Slender Thistle (Carduus tenuiflorus) and other thistles around as well. These days it arises from bird seed as well as from the seed of the original introduced species.

Silybum marianum is a common plant in southern Europe where specimens can be over 2 m tall but here in England it is an Archeophyte (introduced before 1500 AD) and is found dotted all over England and parts of north and south Wales. It is found in the east in southern Scotland and around the Inverness area but it is absent from much of Scotland. In Ireland it is dotted sparsely in the south east mostly.

LHS: Lindisfarne 15th July 2006 RHS: Deganwy Hills, North Wales 25th July 2005

Added on 28th July 2005, updated 8th February 2012

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