Spear Thistle - Cirsium vulgare - Western Isles Wildflowers

Spear Thistles  - Western Isles Wildflowers

Spear Thistle - Pink Wildflowers Hebrides
The spear thistle - one of the three thistles to be seen on The Western Isles. (Spear, creeping and marsh thistles).

The spear thistle is to be seen a little later than the marsh thistles which appear on the scene first

Large Flowers up to 4cm across

The spear thistle has the largest flowers which are usually more lilac in colour than the dark purple of the marsh thistles. Flower heads are as large as 4cm across with purple florets and spiny bracts.

Spear Thistles on Waste Land, Coastal Dunes

You see the spear thistles in lots of places , growing wild on wasteland, near the sand dunes or just along the roadsides.

The stems of these lovely flowers are winged and spiny. The plant can reach to 150cm in height.

Spear Thistles - Seen All Over The Western Isles

The lilac or magenta flowers of the spear thistle show their faces from June to October. The flower heads are larger than the creeping or marsh thistle flowers, getting up to 4 cm's in diameter. The spear thistle is a biennial. The rosettes can survive though sometimes for 4 years before finally flowering

Insects love the Spear Thistle
The flowers are popular with many pollinating insects, bees, butterflies particularly like the rich nectar.

After fertilisation the seeds of the spear thistle mature and the petals will lose their colour, the flower head dries and splits open to release the pappus where the seeds are at the centre.

The dried stems can remain for quite some time, maybe a few years if they aren't disturbed, releasing the seeds gradually over time.

Seeds per FlowerHead
The average number of seeds per flowerhead is around 100, however there can be up to 300.

Spear Thistles - Weeds

It seems almost a shame that these beautiful wildflowers are classed in the Uk as a weed as the flowerheads really are a spectacular sight.

No Natural Enemies because of the prickles

The thistle has no natural enemies because of the vicious spines that cover and protect it like a porcupine.

Spiny Leaves

The leaves are spear-shaped, pinnately-lobed and spiny. The upper surface ranges from dark green to light grey. The under surface is green. The leaves are waxy and end in sharp "spearlike" prickles. The leaves have only a few tooths. The spear shaped leaves are where this plant derives its name. In the late spring of the second year the leaves produce winged multi stems which have spines up their length and can reach to 1,5 metres in height

Click pictures below for larger photographs


Scotland's National Emblem - History - Legends
The thistle seen throughout Scotland and the Western Isles has been Scotland's national emblem for hundreds of years.

tories & Legends re the Marsh Thistle
There are quite a few stories and legends that tell how the thistle became Scotland's symbol.

Most of these stories or legends are set around the reign of Alexander III and in particular the events surrounding the Battle of Largs in 1263.

Spear Thistle - Pink Wildflowers
PInk Wildflowers - Hebrides - Spear Thistle

It was so that many years ago Scotland was part of the Kingdom of Norway. Norway for many years had no interest in Scotland up to 1263 when King Alexander III proposed to buy back the Western Isles and Kintyre from the Norse King Haakon IV.

Late in the summer of 1263 King Haakon of Norway, was intent on conquering the Scots, and set off with a large fleet of long ships for the Scottish coast. Gales and fierce storms forced some of the ships onto the beach at Largs in Ayrshire, and a Norwegian force was landed.

Legend has it that at some point during the invasion the Norsemen tried to surprise the sleeping Scottish Clansmen. In order to move more stealthily under the cover of darkness the Norsemen took off their shoes, but as they crept barefoot they came across an area of ground covered in thistles and one of Haakon's men unfortunately stood on one and shrieked out in pain, thus alerting the Clansmen to the advancing Norsemen.

His shout warned the Scots who defeated the Norsemen at the Battle of Largs, thus saving Scotland from invasion. The important role that the thistle had played was recognised and so was chosen as Scotland's national emblem

Spear Thistle Leaves
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