Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Knapweed (aka Hardheads)

Knapweed (also known as Hardheads)

Knapweed (Centaurea nigra)

I first noticed this wildflower back in June or July up on Copse Hill. At the time, I was bemoaning the variety of thistle (and my lack of knowledge) and because of the shape of the flower head I chucked it into the thistle category ... to be identified later. Much later. Perhaps in the winter, I thought, I'd settle down and put a name to each one.

At around the same time I'd challenged myself to collect wildflowers for a cut flower vase. My self-imposed rule was to not use the same flower twice. This worked pretty well for about 6 weeks but by August my collection was an unlikely combination of sheep's sorrel, hazel, and knapweed.

sheep's sorrel, hazel, and knapweed

A motley crew

It wasn't pretty.

What *was* interesting was that when I picked the flowers for my vase, I realized that they weren't thistly at all. Whoa. Now that was a surprise. No prickles on the stem and smooth edges to the leaves. What *was* this thing?

To the books! It seems that the only thistle without prickles is the "Melancholy Thistle" - its drooping buds give it a sad, forlorn appearance. Melancholy thistle is supposed to be relatively common in this area so I was prepared to be convinced. Unfortunately, the buds on my specimens just didn't droop. Through one twist of fate or another, I came across a description of "Knapweed" and that seemed to be a much better fit.

A small number of knapweed plants are still blooming on Copse Hill but, like many of our summer flowers, will soon pass.

Hardheads (aka Knapweed)
October 16
Hardheads (aka Knapweed)
October 16

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