They glisten silver and gold in the late autumn sunshine these Carline thistles, with their thick fringe of papery bracts and heads of soft golden down. I blogged about the flowers last year; now here are the ‘everlasting’ seed heads that can be seen all through the chilly months of winter.
My new favourite flower resembles something you might find in a dried arrangement rather than a flower in full bloom but such is the look of the Carline thistle (Carlina vulgaris).
It grows best on calcareous soils in Wales and England – they are thriving on the dry, stony grassland areas at Cosmeston Lakes Country Park. It’s spiny, as you would expect from a thistle, but is not a tall plant, probably no more than knee-height, and it sends up its spiky flower heads on solitary stems that have between 2 and 5 flowers on top.
At first glance, you might think the flowers were dead but, if you look closer, you can see that they’re just like any other daisy-like flower, except for their brownish hues. When the sun touches them, they positively glow, and when the weather is cold and wet, they close up. The flowers can be seen from July through to September, after which they will dry out and often last right through the winter. I’m thinking that once they finish flowering, I might have to snaffle a couple to enjoy at home over the winter.