[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

Inside
Weather
Santa Clarita CA
Sunny
Sunny
97°F
 
Calendar
Today in
S.C.V. History
October 16
1853 - Sarah Gifford, community leader and wife of Newhall's first railroad station agent, born in England [story]


Commentary by Evelyne Vandersande
| Thursday, May 25, 2017
 

If you come into a crowded room and start loudly expressing your political views, you can expect the tone of the conversation will go up, arguments will be coming from all directions, faces are going to get red … it could turn ugly.

If you enter the room and throw a few religious statements in the same manner, the reaction will be different: People will grow very quiet, eyebrows will raise, mouths will pucker … but it won’t end well, either.

But what will happen if you come into the room with a wildflower in your hand? I have to be specific that this room is full of nature lovers. You should be safe, right? Let’s add the small detail that this wildflower is a milk thistle. Sorry, you are in a huge pickle once again.

Wildflower lovers will split right away into two camps. There is the camp that does not really care; they like the purple color of the flowers, and they will give you a passing glance. But the purists will wake up and become very animated. They will quickly tell you what is wrong with the milk thistle. It is a non-native to California, it takes nutrients and moisture from the native plants, it should be eradicated at once … and there is much truth to that.

I can clearly understand the position of the purists. I was part of a campaign to eradicate another plant, the horehound, from the Placerita Canyon Nature Center. We spent months pulling this plant out of the ground. It came back the next year, maybe in smaller numbers, but that sort of doused my enthusiasm. It is a constant fight which can have good results in a small area. But non-natives come in with the wind, run off with the rain, and seeds are carried by animals.

While I respect the objective of preserving the native plants, I am afraid the non-natives are here to stay in California – plants and people, too, but I won’t even go there.

This is a fun introduction, but you need to know what a thistle looks like. Check the photos. They were all taken at Rivendale Ranch at Towsley Canyon, on the Taylor Trail (parking lot to your right after the gate).

The flowers is purple and has been the national emblem of Scotland since 1246. It was printed on their silver coins, and it is part of the name of many Scottish football clubs. It is used by the Scottish as a way to show they belong – for example, it is one of the four emblems on the flag of Montréal. It is also the symbol of an area in France called Lorraine. Their motto is “Qui s’y frotte s’y pique” – “Who touches it, picks oneself” – which is a similar idea to the Scottish motto, “Nemo me impune lacessit.”

If you don’t know what this is all about, I will only say you need a thick pair of leather garden gloves to pick up even the young milk thistles because they are extremely prickly. If they are mature, you do not even want to try to pick them up. The prickles are all over the plant, on the stems and on the flat margin of the leaves. And they are sharp.

However, as a plant with many contradictions, you will notice that the flower reminds you very much of the artichoke flower – which is another type of thistle. With the milk thistle, you have to use the plant very young before the prickles have time to grow. The plant is tender then, and all parts of the plant can be eaten.

The root can be eaten raw or cooked. Flower buds can be cooked. The stems can be eaten raw or cooked, but it is better if they are first soaked for a while to remove all bitterness, and they should be peeled.

The leaves can be used like spinach leaves and eaten raw or cooked. This is only to be tried if you want to be adventurous and you have access to very young plants, but it is true that milk thistles are eaten around the globe. In certain countries, roasted milk thistle seeds can be used to replace coffee.

The plants from the genus Cynara are a source of vegetable rennet to make cheese.

Why such a name as “milk” thistle? If you look at the leaves, there is a white mottling on them, and it is actually quite pretty. Legend says that a drop of milk from the Virgin Mary fell on the leaves and was left there forever. The scientific name is Sylibum marianumwas; Sybylum refers to a Greek physician and marianum to the Virgin Mary legend.

As the plant originates from mountains of the Mediterranean region, a legend takes off and makes it the plant of choice for Christ’s crowns of thorns.

In a different part of the world, the “giant thistle of the Pampas” described by Darwin in “The Voyage of the Beagle” is thought to be the milk thistle. They have spread all over the globe. They like dry and rocky soil and thrive in areas where the soil has been disturbed.

Thistles were always used for medicinal purposes. Medieval writers thought they could give you a full head of hair if you were bald. Shakespeare mentioned the thistle’s medical aspect in one of his books, and in modern times, it has been used as remedy for digestion problems, headaches, plagues, canker sores, vertigo and jaundice.

It originated in Kashmir, but Indian milk thistle came to Europe during the Middle Ages and was cultivated in Europe as a vegetable until the end of the 19th Century.

Some species of Silybum are cultivated in fields for the production of raw material for vegetable oil and pharmaceutical compounds such a Silibinin. In parts of Europe, China and Argentina, it is used to treat liver disease and cancer, but the clinical studies are contradictory; more clinical trials are needed.

Goldfinches feed on thistle and use the down from the dried-up flower to build their nest. Each flower can produce about 200 seeds, so that makes it an average of 6,350 seeds per plant, per year.

Some people buy Nyjer seeds for their bird feeder and call them thistle seeds, but they are not related. Nyjer seeds are the seeds of the African yellow daisy. This birdseed was at first called Niger in reference to Nigeria, the plant geographic origin but was trademarked as Nyjer in 1998 by the Wild Bird Feeding Industry. Proper Pronunciation is (NYE-jerr).

Carduus is the Latin name for a thistle. Chardon in French. Cardonnacum is the Latin word for a place with thistles.

Where are we going with this? Do you know the wine, Chardonnay? Well, it comes from the village Chardonnay in France that can also be described as “this place full with thistles.” And that is how it got its name.

I have been trying to give the thistle a chance, and it has many good points. However, it is also true that it competes with native plants and crops, and it interferes drastically with grazing in pastures. It can be highly toxic to cattle and sheep because it contains potassium nitrate, and the animals may die from oxygen deprivation when it is broken down by their digestive system. A few plants in a grazing field may be disastrous.

Go into the hills in Santa Clarita to take a hike. The milk thistles are in bloom right now, and their purple flowers shimmer in the light. Later in the season they will be dried up, so now is the time to look for them. Either you will kick them with your hiking boots (watch out for the spikes) because they are not native, or you will look at them from a safe distance.

The important thing is that you find out what they are and what they look like. Their beauty is short-lived under our hot sun, so enjoy the blossoms right now.

 

Evelyne Vandersande has been a docent at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center since 1986. She lives in Newhall.

 

Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.

1 Comment

  1. Jim Crowley says:

    Great Info Evelyne!! and I thought they were natives…

Leave a Comment


Opinion Section Policy
All opinions and ideas are welcome. Factually inaccurate, libelous, defamatory, profane or hateful statements are not. Your words must be your own. All commentary is subject to editing for legibility. There is no length limit, but the shorter, the better the odds of people reading it. "Local" SCV-related topics are preferred. Send commentary to: LETTERS (at) SCVNEWS.COM. Author's full name, community name, phone number and e-mail address are required. Phone numbers and e-mail addresses are not published except at author's request. Acknowledgment of submission does not guarantee publication.
Read More From...
RECENT COMMENTARY
Tuesday, Oct 10, 2017
It was 10 years ago this fall semester that we opened the Canyon Country Campus on Sierra Highway. We are celebrating a decade of academic excellence and community impact. What a difference a decade makes.
Tuesday, Oct 3, 2017
The Trump budget proposes decreasing funding to the Department of the Interior by $1.5 billion. Trump is calling for more drilling in national parks and monuments. He plans to open BLM land to drilling and fracking.
Tuesday, Oct 3, 2017
We are quickly approaching the culmination of the year-long celebration of our city’s 30th anniversary. It is truly a time to celebrate all the hard work, dedication, perseverance and passion that took our City from being a tiny portion of Los Angeles County to the thriving third largest city in the county.
Tuesday, Oct 3, 2017
This month marks an exciting milestone for the premier arts and entertainment district in Santa Clarita.
Friday, Sep 29, 2017
Kaepernick has never spoken of personally experiencing any negative interactions with the police. Appearances are he had a pretty nice life provided by people with white skin while living in a country that presented him with obvious, mind-boggling opportunities.
Thursday, Sep 28, 2017
Despite its close proximity to the city of Barstow, Rainbow Basin remains virtually undiscovered. It is well worth a visit. Visitors to the area can find scenic opportunities for hiking, rock scrambling, camping, photography, sightseeing and horseback riding.

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
Master’s and Westmont College needed more than 90 minutes again Saturday to settle a Golden State Athletic Conference showdown in Santa Barbara.
Master’s Men Soccer Players Fall to Westmont in OT
Master’s women soccer players and coaches alike were adamant after Saturday’s top-10 matchup that Westmont’s 5-2 win wasn’t nearly as lopsided as the score suggests.
Westmont Tops Master’s Women’s Soccer 5-2
Although Friday the 13th is a day generally associated with bad luck, CalArts turned the superstition on its ear as the community celebrated the inauguration of its fourth president, Ravi S. Rajan.
CalArts Inaugurates Ravi S. Rajan as Fourth President
CalArts School of Theater faculty Janie Geiser brings her collage film program "Double Vision" to REDCAT in downtown Los Angeles on Monday, Oct. 16 at 8:30 p.m.
Oct 16: ‘Double Vision’: Recent Films by Janie Geiser at REDCAT
The promising signs the Mustangs showed in their Missouri opener paid off in the evening Friday when Master’s women’s volleyball picked up its first road win of the season.
Master’s Rallies on the Road, Nets Season’s First Win
College of the Canyons' women's volleyball team opened Western State Conference play in style, as the Cougars swept visiting West L.A. College in straight sets.
No. 11 Canyons Sweeps West L.A. at the Cougar Cage
A roundup of the Santa Clarita arts-related events for Oct. 16-20, 2017.
Oct. 16-20: Santa Clarita Arts Upcoming Events
The Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce's October mixer is set for Wednesday, October 18 at Atria Senior Living in Newhall starting at 5:30 p.m.
Oct. 18: SCV Chamber of Commerce October Mixer at Atria
The Boys & Girls Club of Santa Clarita Valley will host a series of "Great Futures" tours for local residents in an effort to get the word out about the club's programs and services.
SCV Boys & Girls Club Hosts ‘Great Futures’ Tours
A special meeting of the Santa Clarita City Council, the Planning Commission, the Parks, Recreation and Communnity Services Commission, the Arts Commission, and the Open Space Preservation District Financial Accountability and Audit Panel is set for Tuesday, October 17 at City Hall.
Oct. 17: Harassment, Abusive Conduct Prevention Training for City Officials
The Hart Indians outscored the Canyon Cowboys 35-18 at Harry Welch Stadium Friday, October 13, in the teams' 50th matchup, and Kevin Karzin, president of the SCV Photographers Association, contributed photos from the game.
Photo Gallery: Hart Indians Beat Canyon Cowboys 35-18
Leaders from the CLWA and NCWC will meet in October, November and December to discuss their merger, which creates the Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency as of Jan. 1.
Next Step: Water Agency Officials to Share Merger Details
Gov. Brown has vetoed a President Donald Trump-inspired proposal that would have required presidential candidates to release their tax returns in order to appear on the statewide ballot.
Brown Vetoes Bill Requiring Candidates Release Tax Returns
Gov. Jerry Brown signed a series of bills on Sunday calling for criminal justice reforms, including reduction of penalties for some gun and drug crimes and changes to the Megan's Law sex offender registry.
Gov. Brown Signs Legislation for Criminal Justice Reforms
1853 - Sarah Gifford, community leader and wife of Newhall's first railroad station agent, born in England [story]
With the stroke of his pen Sunday, Gov. Jerry Brown eliminated the Castaic Lake Water Agency and Newhall County Water District and replaced them with a new water agency for the Santa Clarita Valley.
Brown Signs Wilk Bill Merging SCV Water Agencies
1939 - Second, larger OLPH Catholic Church dedicated on site of first (10th & Walnut, Newhall) [story]
Santa Clarita-based Princess Cruises celebrated the New York premiere of “Born to Dance,” the latest offering from its first-of-its-kind partnership with award-winning composer Stephen Schwartz and famed director/creator Daniel C. Levine.
Princess Cruises Celebrates NY Premiere of ‘Born to Dance’ With Schwartz, Levine
1980 - Phillies beat Royals in Game 1 of World Series; Hart grad Bob Walk is winning pitcher [story]
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored 17 student winners from colleges and universities around the world at the 44th Student Academy Awards ceremony in Beverly Hills Thursday night.
Medalists Revealed at 2017 Student Academy Awards
The Los Angeles Dodgers will play host to the Chicago Cubs in Game 1 of the 2017 NLCS at Dodger Stadium on Saturday starting at 5:08 p.m.
National League Championships Open at Dodger Stadium Saturday
Santa Clarita ranks No. 5 among Los Angeles County's 88 cities in the assessed value of all taxable real property and business personal property, according to the 2017 Annual Report released by County Assessor Jeffrey Prang today.
Santa Clarita No. 5 Highest Valued City in LA County
The U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI, and a coalition of other law enforcement agencies and community organizations will host the 9th Annual Cyber Crime Prevention Symposium in downtown Los Angeles on Monday, October 16 from 8:25 a.m. to 1:45 p.m.
Oct. 16: Cyber Crime Symposium for Educators, Parents, Students
Tonight on SCV NewsBreak, locals found out what it is like to be a school principal. Plus, there are some great events to head out to this weekend. Watch these stories and more on tonight's edition of SCV NewsBreak.
SCV NewsBreak for Friday, October 13, 2017
Starting Monday night, Oct. 16, the California Department of Transportation will paint new temporary lanes on a section of Interstate 5 aka the Golden State Freeway in and near the city of Santa Clarita.
New Temporary Lanes Coming Monday on Interstate 5 in SCV
The William S. Hart Union High School District is looking for someone to become a personnel commissioner to serve a three-year term beginning December 1, 2017.
Hart District Seeks Personnel Commissioner for Classified Employees
The College of the Canyons baseball program and Playa Vista Orioles youth baseball organization will host a free instructional clinic for players ages 11-14 at COC's Cougar Field in Valencia on Saturday, Oct. 21 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Oct. 21: COC Baseball, Playa Vista Orioles Youth Classic
An alumna of the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Clarita Valley, Cinthya Medrano, is the first recipient of a Duane R. Harte Memorial Scholarship.
Cinthya Medrano Earns First Duane R. Harte Memorial Scholarship
The non-profit Santa Clarita Coalition has created a Facebook page to aid the Evans family after the mother of six children died in a car crash on Golden Valley Road.
Facebook Page Created to Aid Evans Family
The Golden State Gateway Coalition, a non-profit transportation education and advocacy organization based in Santa Clarita, has published the fall 2017 edition of its newsletter, "Interchange."
Golden State Gateway Coalition Issues Fall 2017 Newsletter
The Castaic Lake Water Agency's Budget and Rates Committee is scheduled to meet on Tuesday, October 17 at 5:30 p.m.
Oct. 17: CLWA Budget and Rates Committee Meeting
A "Tip-a-Cop" fundraiser for the Special Olympics Santa Clarita Valley is set for the Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews restaurant in Valencia on Thursday, October 19, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Oct. 19: Tip-a-Cop at Red Robin for Special Olympics SCV
California Governor Jerry Brown declared a statewide hepatitis A outbreak on Friday, and the L.A. County Department of Public Health is on the case.
Governor Brown Declares Statewide Hepatitis A Outbreak
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will address issues related to homelessness and the Hepatitis A outbreak among other agenda items in their meeting Tuesday, October 17 starting at 9 a.m.
Oct. 17: Homelessness, Hepatitis A on Supes’ Meeting Agenda
California and 17 more states and Washington D.C. sued the Trump administration Friday over the president’s decision to scrap subsidies to health insurance companies that help cover the out-of-pocket medical costs of low-income Americans.
California, 17 More States Sue Trump Over Scrapping of ACA Subsidies
To mark the 70th anniversary of the first supersonic flight on Oct. 14, 1947, Edwards Air Force Base will launch flights which are scheduled to pass over Santa Clarita Valley schools between 12:28 p.m. and 12:30 p.m. Friday.
Air Force SCV Flyovers Celebrate Supersonic Flight, STEM Education