The true Scottish Thistle, the emblem of a proud and historic people is not the creeping thistle (Cirsium arvense) that many gardeners battle against, that is not a National Flower. No the true Scottish thistle is the Onopordum acanthium and it is a real stunner.
My first sight of Onopordum acanthium preparing to flower was at Floors Castle appropriately enough in the Scottish Borders. I stood transfixed by the beauty of the grey green foliage and the wooly hairs that simply fascinate me.
There could surely be no better plant to represent a Nation.
Like all biennial plants Onopordum acanthium produces a rosette of leaves in the first year of growth. At the same time a large fleshy taproot to store starch and sugar over the winter is developed.
In the spring of year 2 there is a significant increase in growth, the main stem developed becoming up to 10cm wide at the base, branched foliage develops and ultimately globe shaped flowers form at the top of the branches in the summer.
Onopordum acanthium like all plants has just one intention, to take over the world and it has been estimated that just one plant can produce some 40 000 seeds.
According to legend the flower was chosen to be the National Flower of Scotland when, prior to a battle an unlucky soldier stood on the leaf rosette, his cry of pain and anguish warned the Scottish Soldiers of the impending attack and the grateful Scots adopted Onopordum acanthium as the national flower.