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July 10, 2008 / Bo Mackison

What’s Blooming in the Prairie?

Thistles in the Blue

Thistle, prickly to the hand and quite noxious to other plants as it tends to take over and monopolize the land to the detriment of other plants. The name “thistle” is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “to stab” – the plant is appropriately named, full of thorn set as a defense against crawling creatures after the flowers’ extremely sweet nectar. Birds and butterflies can easily approach though, and goldfinches are especially fond of both the seed as food and the down as nesting material.

Butterfly Weed

Butterfly Weed, as the name implies, is an irresistible plant for butterflies. The huge domes make lovely landing pads and dining palaces for many adult butterflies and the foliage feeds the larvae of the monarchs. It is the orange member of the milkweed family.

Queen Anne's Lace

Queen Anne’s Lace, also called Wild Carrot. Its leaves, stem and root taste and smell like the garden carrot, its taproot can be eaten as a vegetable or roasted as a “coffee”. And legend says that if the “flowers of the lace are mixed in sweet red wine and drunk long into the evening” it acts not only as a love potion, but also as a contraceptive. Can’t speak for or against that lore.


The Common Milkweed might as well be called the Monarch Butterfly Plant, as it is essential to all stages of that butterfly’s existence. They lay their eggs on the plant; the caterpillars spend their entire lives feeding on the leaves. Once mature, they build their chrysalises on the undersides of the leaves, and when the butterflies emerge from their cocoons, they feed on the flowers. The plant also provides protection to the Monarchs as the sap the caterpillars feed on is distasteful and keeps away predatory birds.


  1. Joanna Young / Jul 10 2008 3:41 am

    Bo, I do love your wildflower shots the best, thank you, and for sharing the information on the names and folklore.


  2. davidlind / Jul 10 2008 4:08 am

    This is such a cool post. I love all the information. Especially the one about the Monarch butterfly. Those two are really attached to each other. I have never been out in a prairie. Can’t imagine not being there at some point and experiencing some of these wonderful things.

  3. Robin / Jul 10 2008 8:16 am

    You have a way of taking what I think of as the ordinary and making it extraordinary. 🙂

  4. ybonesy / Jul 10 2008 8:53 am

    Well, you already know how much I appreciate learning about the flowers around you, but I’ll tell you again — Thank you! The Queen Anne’s lace is among my favorites.

    We have a butterfly bush here, not at this house but I planted it at our old house. The leaves are very similar to the one in your photo, but the blossoms are longer and a lavendar color.

    Also, aren’t thistles wonderful? And have you ever grown an artichoke. Gorgeous. But back to thistles in general — they remind me that people can be like flowers; those who are like thistles are appealing but stab when you get too close.

  5. Gandalf / Jul 10 2008 11:06 am

    I enjoy and appreciate the photos and the stories. This is a nice break in the middle of a hectic workday. 🙂

  6. montucky / Jul 10 2008 1:09 pm

    A great post and great photos! I especially enjoyed seeing the Butterfly weed.

  7. Chris Osborne / Jul 10 2008 8:56 pm

    Oooh, pretty colors. That’s enough to get me to stop and take a look. If I wasn’t stopping by to take a look anyway that is.

  8. Bernie Kasper / Jul 11 2008 11:14 am

    Wonderful images and info Bo, and many people consider these just weeds !!

  9. Cindy Dyer / Jul 17 2008 8:49 am

    Hi Bo! I really love your shots in the prairie, especially the thistle. Thanks for your comments on my blog, too!

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