Everyone knows that a four leaf clover, a rabbit's foot or a horseshoe are lucky charms, and many of us believe that they can really work. But did you know that a thistle seed can also be a lucky charm? I strongly believed that when I was a child, although I didn't know what that fluffy lucky charm thing was or where it came from.
As a child, I played many fun games with my friends. Catching the thistle seeds was one of those games, although it was more like a superstition than a real game. As children, we called it "fluff" or "luck" We would catch any "luck" we could see floating through the air, then we would make a wish and put it under our clothes, through the upper part of the t-shirt or dress or what ever clothes we were wearing. This makes it seem like a kind of lucky charm, don't you agree? Some sources say the thistle has been used as a lucky charm in other parts of the world, not only in Romania. It was even adopted as a national symbol for Scotland, thanks to a lucky thistle that is said to have saved the Scottish army just by being there, on the field. Some people in the U.S. remember how they used to "wish upon a fluff" when they were children, whether it was a thistle or a dandelion fluff.
Back then I didn't know that our "lucky charm" was the thistle's seed. Now that I'm living in the middle of a field, where lots of weeds are growing - especially thistles - I have the opportunity to see how the "luck" appears. Now I can have a few dozens of lucky charms everyday, during all summer! The bad part is that wherever a thistle seed lands, there will be a thistle growing next year. They particularly like my lawn, maybe because they have lots of grass leaves to hold on to. After landing on the lawn, they just make room to the ground where they sleep undisturbed, until spring, when they pop up, trying to survive. Some of them can even reach maturity, especially those well hidden between my plants, but they aren't that lucky because I always find them and pull them out. It's not that easy with the thistles growing on the field, though. They are growing, blooming and making seeds which are spread all around, and all starts again.
Thistle is a common name for the tribe Cynareae of perennial flowering plants, with prickly leaves, from the Asteraceae family. The thistle species differ through their seeds. Carduus, Silybum, and Onopordum have seeds called achenes which have feathered hairs, while the other genera, Cirsium have feathery pappus, seeds with bristles around them, looking like a flower. The feathery pappus assists in wind dispersal, also called thistledown.
Cirsium arvense, also called Creeping thistle or Canada thistle, is a species of thistles with pappus - the fluffy seed I called "luck" in my childhood. Thistles are invasive, noxious weeds, but they also have healing properties and are frequenly used in medicine for healing illnesses, such as headaches, canker, sores, vertigo, plague and jaundice. Their roots, stalks and leaves are edible and can be efficient in inducing flatulence. The seeds are preferred by small birds, especially goldfinches. Bees, bumblebees and butterflies appreciate thistle's purple flowers for their nectar.
The plant can spread through its underground rhizomes too, which I've found out while trying to pull them out of my garden; they keep coming back in the same places every summer, even if I pull them out with root.
Now that I've learned more good - and bad - about the Creeping thistle, I don't want to have it anywhere near my garden. I'll be fighting it, but I'll also keep the good memories of the "lucky charm". I don't think I will be able to ignore it when my grandson is old enough to understand, so I'll tell him all about the lucky charm and let him enjoy and have fun with it, too.
About Adina Dosan
I'm a Romanian plants and pets addicted, always happy to share my experience.