Thick and sticky thistle No. 1

At least three varieties of thick and sticky thistles (can you say that real fast?) bloomed this month in the park.  The park is a regular paradise for weeds.  Students of ruderals (volunteer plants that colonize disturbed soil) could earn their doctorates here.

Thick and sticky thistle No. 1:  Spiny Sow Thistle, Sonchus asper.  The flowers are yellow and the leaves are covered in spines on all sides.  Native to Europe.  A common weed all over the USA.  Classified as noxious in some states, not in others.  No idea why it’s named after a female pig, but Green Deane, author of the Eat the Weeds blog, says it’s because farmers used to feed it to lactating sows, believing that the plant’s white sap would increase the pig’s milk.  Not true, but pigs do like to eat it.  The spiny leaves are edible for humans, preferably when the plant is young; Wikipedia even says they “make a palatable and nutritious leaf vegetable.”  Bon appetit.

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