Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mojave Thistle

The Mojave thistle is found in California, Nevada and Arizona in damp soils around desert springs, streams and ditches. It has a single main stem that branches above to multiple stems. The thistle below, except for the last picture, was found in the San Felipe Hills near a spring.
The leaves are green with wooly hairs on the underside. The basal leaves are 4 to 8 inches long and have narrow spiked lobes.
There are only a few upper leaves and they are small and spiny. Spines on leaves can be up to an inch long.
They bloom in summer. The flower emerges from a round, spiky ball (involcure) that is about one inch in diameter.
The involcure has spines about 1/3 inch long. The following is a procession of shots of the involcure in various stages of opening.

The flowers are white to lavender. The lavender flowers are what distinguishes it from other thistles. This thistle flower was found in Mission Creek Canyon in the San Bernardino Mountains.
It lives for two years. The first year, it is a rosette of spiky leaves. The second year, it sends up a flower stalk with more spiky leaves and a spiky involcure. It can get about seven feet high. I have just discovered a wonderful website,, that provides descriptions of various plants in the Las Vegas area and gives pictures. It is by far the best website I have found for identifying plants in the Southern California area and is where the information for this post was obtained.

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