My wife’s great grand-mother said that the only difference between a weed and a flower is whether you wanted it or not. My rule of thumb is if it refuses to die, it’s probably a weed and if it refuses to live, it’s probably a flower.
Stands to reason that thistle like other plants would fall into one of these categories. The national flower of Scotland, we used a thistle on our farm logo. So, I decided to let the purple headed prickly flower grow in a patch in our pasture. It’s very pretty and as the farm emblem it seemed appropriate. There is however that matter of flower vs weed. Although national weed of Scotland just doesn’t have the same ring to it, the thistle spreads rather quickly and like my definition of a weed, it refuses to die. I’ve never heard anyone say they have to control flowers or cultivate weeds. So - If I have to control our thistle proliferation, can I rightly call it a flower? But - If I cultivate the thistle, we’ll lose our pastures and thus the farm.
Now I have this dilemma about thistle. What do we call it and what do we do with it? To settle the debate, I researched why Scotland chose the thistle as a national emblem in the first place. Apparently, the spikes on the stem pricked the feet of the soldiers in an invading army from Norway who shouted in pain warning the Scots in time to avoid a surprise attack. Umm. How could such a story relate to our little farmstead I wonder? Well, further research revealed that certain thistle is considered an injurious weed and restricted under the UK 1959 Weed Act. It appears that thistle is a national flower in time of war and an injurious weed in time of peace. It’s generally peaceful in our neighborhood, not too many invading armies, so I now feel justified in culling back the weed as necessary. But, I’ll Ieave a few of the purple pricklies just in case war does come to the Smoky Mountains, and preserve an emblem of our farm to boot.
The thistle emblem of Scotland is accompanied by the motto: Nemo Me Impune Lacessit – ‘no-one provokes me with impunity’ or 'Wha duar meddle wi me' in the Scots language which basically translates – you can’t make me mad and get away with it. I don’t think that’s a very welcoming message for the farm so I think we’ll stick with just the thistle.