Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mediterranean thistle

Few plants of the Sicilian countryside bloom in autumn, but the Mediterranean thistle is a unique and attractive exception. This stemless plant produces a single strikingly beautiful flower head 1.5 to 3 in (4 to 8 cm) in diameter at ground level in September or October after the rosette of prickly, divided leaves have dried. The large root of this thistle is toxic if eaten, but a thick resinous liquid extracted from it has commercial uses. Grows in open, sunny roadsides and borders of pastures and cultivated fields, most common on dry alkaline soils.

Scientific name: Atractylis gummifera, syn. Carlina gummifera
Italian common name: Masticogna laticifera
English common name: Mediterranean or Pine thistle