Plant mystery solved thanks to readers

Photo: SM020811-011ow.jpg'Mick Bell with a cotton thistle in the garden of Rutland House Community Trust, Oakham.
Photo: SM020811-011ow.jpg'Mick Bell with a cotton thistle in the garden of Rutland House Community Trust, Oakham.

A PRICKLY mystery has been solved by Mercury readers.

Colin Brown, 68, of Schofield Road, Oakham, put out an appeal in last week’s Mercury to find out what kind of thistle had sprung up along the A606 between Oakham and Whitwell.

Scores of readers called the Mercury offices on Friday last week and Monday to state that Colin’s mystery thistle was in fact a cotton thistle.

Onopordum acanthium, also known as the Scotch thistle, is a fast growing biennial plant with pinkish or purple flowers and self-seeds profusely.

One of the people who called up to identify the plant was Mick Bell, of High Street, Exton.

Mr Bell is pictured on the front page with the cotton thistle he looks after at Rutland House Community Trust, in Brooke Road, Oakham.

He said: “I have been growing cotton thistles in my garden for years. They are a feature.”

Jane Robson, of Main Street, Empingham, said: “It is a cotton thistle, without a doubt.

“They grow from July to September.

“I have seen one before in Europe but I have seen them in England as well.”

Anne Staples, of Uppingham Road, Bisbrooke, was the first person to call up and say that it was a cotton thistle.

Rutland Natural History Society member Mark Branston also confirmed that it was a Scotch thistle.

He said: “It is quite a common thistle which was grown occasionally in the east of England.”

Gill Lawrence, of St Alban’s Close, Oakham, has also sent in a picture of her cotton thistle.

She said: “I believe the thistle growing near the crossroads at Barnsdale is onopordum acanthium, also known as cotton thistle, scotch thistle or woolly thistle.

“We have grown them here for many years to add height and interest in the border.”

Justine Overton, who works for the RSPB at Fineshade Wood, also confirmed that it was a cotton thistle.

She said: “They like places like waste ground, rubbish tips and hedgerows.”