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Botanical Art Worldwide: America's Flora

Minnesota Field Thistle

Cirsium discolor

I was in our raspberry patch to gather berries for breakfast when I saw it. Staring at me with seemingly quite the attitude was the most amazing thistle. The height of the thistle suggested my gardening insouciance. Yet, my fingers started to do its quasi tingle that happens whenever I know something is going to be very fun to paint. Looking at me from an eye level vantage point, it had the most tenuous lavender threads of bloom and piercing spikes of needle leaves. I soon discovered that this captivating weed was invasive rather than a native species, however now that my interest had been piqued, I would just have to paint a thistle.

After discussion, research, and hiking with my neighbor and naturalist friend Beth, the native Minnesota field thistle was discovered at the Mississippi Gorge Regional Park. I patiently watched it grow during the ensuing summer weeks. Just at the point of blooming, the park staff sprayed it with a noxious black substance immediately causing death. It had grown to prickle one too many runners that used the park paths, and the lovely wild thistle had become a hindrance rather than a thing of natural beauty.

After a few more Lucy and Ethel attempts at ‘thistle hunting,’ Beth and I eventually discovered the field thistle at the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary in Minneapolis. Walking up and over a path, I was overwhelmed to see not one, not two, but fields of this blooming, beautiful, lavender, bee-magnet thistle. It was truly that eureka moment of penultimate explorer joy in finding something so humble as to be overlooked, yet so exquisitely perfect.

This thistle has leaves that are magnificently spiked, as if it has something to guard with its razor edged arms. The undersides of the leaves are very light in color, as if they are human underarms protected from the tanning of the sun. The light purple has ‘just enough’ color, perfect for a true Minnesotan who doesn’t really like to be at the center of attention. Just beautiful enough! And then, the pièce de résistance... the sweetest little bud appears, suggesting that this mother would protect her baby with covert needle-like weapons until the bitter end. Aaaah, this small piece of heaven right in front of me, waiting to be captured in all of its prickly glory.


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Read more about this artist’s work: 20th Annual

Worldwide-Scanlon Connie Minnesota Field Tnshistle

Cirsium discolor

Minnesota Field Thistle

watercolor on vellum

12 x 9

©2017 Constance Scanlon

2024 ASBA - All rights reserved

All artwork copyrighted by the artist. Copying, saving, reposting, or republishing of artwork prohibited without express permission of the artist.

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