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Thistle be a good Friday the Thirteenth!
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By Garden of Cross Timbers
Hello, I am Becky Carlberg, gardening enthusiast from Southeast Oklahoma. I have degrees in Biology from Eastern Oklahoma State College and Oklahoma State University. Teaching, research work, and competing in art shows then followed. I earned my ...
Gardens of Cross Timbers

Hello, I am Becky Carlberg, gardening enthusiast from Southeast Oklahoma. I have degrees in Biology from Eastern Oklahoma State College and Oklahoma State University. Teaching, research work, and competing in art shows then followed. I earned my Master’s Degree in Plant Pathology from OSU and continued graduate work on a Doctorate of Botany at the University of Oklahoma.

With my family, we twice had an opportunity to live in Europe. We were in England for five years and then later in Germany for seven years. It was an excellent education for our sons. I returned to gardening, writing and art, became a Master Gardener, as well as an Oklahoma certified Master Naturalist. I am the gardener in charge of the Shawnee Japanese Peace Garden, a member of the Deep Fork Audubon Society, and now call my five acre Backyard Wildlife Habitat and Oklahoma Wildscape outside Shawnee home.

My name is Linda Workman Smith. The first step of my gardening journey began in the hills northwest of Van Buren, Arkansas, where my parents—both from farming families—raised seven children.

This is not to say that I’ve always had a love for gardening although over the years I’ve managed to keep my hands in the dirt. In 2000, my husband’s employment brought us to Shawnee where we settled on two acres west of town. Being unemployed for the first time in many years—and planning to stay that way—I started gardening on a small scale.

I have been a member of the Multi-County Master Gardener Association for several years and thoroughly enjoy being in the organization. I now have many flower beds and I’ve expanded my gardens to include lots of vegetable varieties, several fruit trees, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and grapes. Every year I try to plant something different. I don’t grow a lot of any one thing, but a little bit of lots of things!

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The Shaving Brush Thistle
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The Shaving Brush Thistle
By Garden of Cross Timbers
Sept. 13, 2013 6:57 p.m.

Friday the 13th in September of 2013 Blog
Becky Emerson Carlberg
Autumn is trying to unseat summer over the next few days before its official arrival September 22nd, and it is a fight. There are tropical depressions and potential hurricanes now forming rather late in the season. For the Atlantic, the season runs from June 1st to November 30th. Gabrielle is turning away the US coast, Humberto has weakened, and Ingrid is now stationary in southern Mexico.
The plants know their time is coming to an end. The Indian grass is beautiful, with full heads waving in the breeze. Many sunflowers are peaking, but Maximilian’s Sunflower (Helianthus Maximiliani) is just now beginning to bloom along the roads. You can recognize them by their unbranched stems with the flowers lining the stem and possible heights of up to 12 feet or taller. The common sunflower is very branched and may top 6 feet.
The name Maximiliani was given to honor Prince Maximilian of Wied-Neuwied, Germany (1782-1867). He accompanied one expedition to Brazil (1815-1817), encountered the tribe called the Botocudos and wrote detailed descriptions of them. He collected plants and insects, many of which were lost while he was detained for extensive questioning. So the prince left Brazil with what he had left. In 1832 Prince Maximilian then came to the Great Plains region accompanied by Swiss painter Karl Bodmer and their group traveled up the Missouri River. The prince kept journals about the peoples and wildlife he encountered during the years spent in North America. Watercolor pictures of Native Americans done by Bodmer were included in Maximilian’s book published in 1840 “Travels in the interior of North America”. So Maximilian is remembered every time this sunflower grows and blooms! Well done Max.
The Liatris (Snakeroot) is now displaying thick fuzzy spikes of small purple flowers. Tall thistles are also covered in purple blooms, but are much larger and come with spines. As one person noted, the flower heads are shaped like shaving brushes. I have one thistle I nursed from last year to this year. These are biennials: plants that establish themselves a good root system the first year, bloom the second year and then it is all over; they are finished. Some call them 2 year plants.
The Tall thistle (Cirsium altissimum) grows throughout the center of the United States, but not the west or New England. It is a native plant and the Cherokee liked to use thistle down as tails in blow darts and the roots in an infusion to treat overeating. Spiny Prilosec. The OSU factsheet PSU 2776 on “Thistles in Oklahoma and their identification” is a cool factsheet on thistles. It has an easy key with pictures you can follow to help you distinguish one thistle from another. Yes, we have some non-native invasives, but the Tall, Wavy leaf, Yellow spine and Yellow thistles are all native plants. In other words, do not go out and eradicate these plants without positive identification. They serve very useful purposes. Butterflies, bees (especially bumble), moths and skippers visit flowers for nectar and pollen and don’t forget the Pine siskins, Purple and House finches and Goldfinches. They love thistle seed. The goldfinches build their nests and lay eggs much later than many birds, and prefer the thistle seed silk to line their nests.
I could go into a discussion on Nyjer seed right now, but shall save that for a future blog. Keep in mind Nyjer seed (Guizotia abyssinica) is usually the seed people think is thistle in wildbird seed concoctions. This seed is from African yellow daisies but is similar to thistle seed, and is sometimes marketed as thistle seed.
See, Friday the 13th was not so bad after all! Watch and water your plants (if they were not lucky in getting any rain. Mine are still quite dry and crispy and I hear “water, water” quietly whispered as I walk past them).
The plants are also telling you Fall is just around the corner. Begin thinking about what plants you plan on bringing indoors and where they will go. Inspect for pests and repot those that have outgrown their pots. Keep the insecticidal soap or Neem horticultural oil on hand. They will come into good use when time comes to possibly spray the plants prior to moving indoors.
Definitely look at the Oklahoma State Factsheet on thistles. Find it at:
Do you love the sound of bird songs? Want to know how to identify native plants and how to attract birds and butterflies to your yard? Do you love nature? Join us as a member of the Oklahoma Master Naturalists, a group of volunteers dedicated to learning about and preserving Oklahoma’s rich biological diversity and sharing this knowledge with others.
The Oklahoma Master Naturalists invite you to attend the Urban Ecosystem Workshop tomorrow, Saturday, September 14th, from 9am to 3pm. The program and hike will be held at Martin Park Nature Center, 5000 West Memorial Road, NW OKC. RSVP omnvolunteer@cox.net or (405) 227-6020. Visit the web at okmastersnaturalist.org.

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