The creeping thistle (Cirsium arvense) is probably our most common thistle species. It grows almost anywhere on scrub, grassland and roadsides with a preference for open ground so it also likes arable land and pasture and there it can become a serious weed.
The creeping thistle is not the most attractive of flowers. It has small pale purple flowers that emerge in clusters at the top of the stems. The leaves are untidy, wrinkled and prickly (rather than speared). Despite being rather plain and dull they go through a stage in the autumn when they take on, for a brief time anyway, a certain beauty. Thistles of all all varieties turn from their generally purple coloured heads into silver-grey haired oldies and for all its faults the creeping thistle produces the most wonderful seed heads that are a favourite of goldfinches and other birds. For this reason, whilst most farmers seek to eradicate the creeping thistle, on Arne farm it is positively encouraged by the RSPB!
This autumn beauty is short lived however as the wind soon starts to break the seed heads up and blow them away. I just wonder at how many seeds there must be on a single flower head. Isn't nature amazing? Even the common creeping thistle is a little bit special despite being despised.