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Rethinking Thistles

 
                              
Posts: 262
Location: Coast Range, Oregon--the New Magic Land
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As I've lived in the woods here I've watched a LOT of thistle life. It grows thick when people clear ground(logging, clearing brush). I can also see it is very picky about conditions--fullsun, bare soil. It doesn't grow in the woods nor sprout much in the nice thick unmown meadow/prairies. The seeds fly about all over like and drift like snow here, so there is an incredible amount of seeds EVERYWHERE, yet I can see germination rate is low, and obviously super low for places it does not like to grow.

Thistle has a long taproot, and I see it decomposes VERY fast(you wouldn't think so with it's thorns and stiff leaves, but it does). So I'm thinking it's a tool for nature to repair compacted bare ground--it breaks it up with the roots and makes new duf with the leaves.

So my question is, I know stuff like comfrey brings nutrients up from underground to deposit on top of the soil to nourish the top, and there are other plants nature designed to do this. I'm wondering how I can find out what nutrients thistle likes to bring up? I have been chopping/pulling it and bringing to my garden for mulch/compost(before the seeds blow of course ) to no apparent ill effect. I like how it rots quickly, and the thorns also disappear.

Anyways, of course people around here HATE the thistle and it's an ongoing battle to killkillkill it.  Personally after watching it I dont' think it's that bad of a weed--but if you want to keep scraping your ground and overgrazing your field..... well it's your own fault!

I'm also wondering about poison oak and it's role. So far it's great to keep out random hunters and tresspassers!
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
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i know what you mean, we have a huge area that comes up with milk thistles every year. everyone else hates it except me. i love how it decomposes so fast. and how much biomass it produces when growing compared to the rest of the plants growing around. they make great compost and i have been doing it for some time now.
 
Emil Spoerri
pollinator
Posts: 420
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Milk Thistle is one thing, Canadian Thistle is a real pain in the ass.
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
12
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we also have yellow start thistle. also a pain in the ass but great compost material when picked young.
 
Alison Thomas
pollinator
Posts: 933
Location: France
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Yes I agree about canadian thistle (that's the one with the LONG wandering root isn't it).  We have lots of that and lots of another rosette forming one with horrid barbs on the leaves.  The butterflies love the flowers and that's why I keep some.  However, the geese don't like walking on them in the orchard, understandably, so I've begun a process of digging some of them up (when the ground was workable a month ago - now as hard as a rock as we haven't had rain since 25 March).  Interestingly, the geese adore eating the roots!  So yes, they must be bringing up something good.
 
                              
Posts: 262
Location: Coast Range, Oregon--the New Magic Land
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The thisle I'm talking about has many small flowers, and it looks like the pic of Canada thistle in my book, but has a taproot, not a creeping rhizome, so I'm not sure exactly what one it is. We also have the bull thistle, but that is much scarcer.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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here i have to let some of the thistles go to see for my american goldfinch population, as they line their nests with thistledown..so they are a priority for me to leave for them..however..my husband is very unfond of them..

you can remove them with a weedhound..quite easily..that is a great tool for removing taprooted or rosette forming weeds or plants..i have used it to dig wild spreading ajuga and transplanting it into my gardens and under trees..with very little harm to the roots.

this tool has 4 nail like protrusions that when you push down and twist they loosen the root..and then you clamp and pull up and it comes up pretty much whole..then you pop and it shoots off..great tool
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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