We’ve come to our last thistle, the bull thistle. Like other varieties, this noxious weed is highly invasive and outcompetes native plants and disturbs natural habitat for animals. It grows over summer months where its first-year growth is seen in the form rosettes with no reproductive ability. During its first-year, the weed establishes into the earth with a fleshy taproot. The second-year growth results in multiple round formations with pale purple flowers on stems and can grow up to three feet tall with strong fibrous root systems forming. What makes this thistle particularly harmful is its sharp spines that cover virtually every surface of the stem, leaves and flower head can easily puncture and irritate skin. The circles in the image highlight some of those prickly attributes. Mature plants are reported to produce some 4000 seeds per plant, hence removing them before seeds form is critical to managing the preserve.

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