Having just returned from a business trip to Holland and a short weekend visit to my home country of Scotland I thought it appropriate to post a photo of the famous Scottish thistle.
Onopordum acanthium (Cotton Thistle), is a flowering plant in the family Asteraceae. It is native to Europe and western Asia from Iberia east to Kazakhstan, and north to centralScandinavia, and widely naturalised elsewhere. It is a vigorous biennial plant with coarse, spiny leaves and conspicuous spiny-winged stems.
The thistle has been the national emblem of Scotland since the reign of Alexander III (1249 – 1286) and was used on silver coins issued by James III in 1470. According to the legend, an invading Norse army was attempting to sneak up at night upon a Scots army encampment. During this operation one barefoot Norseman had the misfortune to step upon a Scots Thistle, causing him to cry out in pain, thus alerting Scots to the presence of the Norse invaders. Some sources suggest the specific occasion was the Battle of Largs, which marked the beginning of the departure of the King Haakon IV (Haakon the Elder) of Norway who, having control of the Northern Isles andHebrides, had harried the coast of the Kingdom of Scotland for some years. Which species of thistle is referred to in the original legend is disputed. Popular modern usage favours Onopordum acanthium, perhaps because of its more imposing appearance, though it is unlikely to have occurred in Scotland in mediaeval times; the Spear Thistle Cirsium vulgare, an abundant native species in Scotland, is a more likely candidate. Other species, including Dwarf Thistle Cirsium acaule, Musk Thistle Carduus nutans, and Melancholy Thistle Cirsium heterophyllum have also been suggested.