header image

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

Inside
Weather
Santa Clarita CA
Cloudy
Cloudy
51°F
 
Calendar
Today in
S.C.V. History
April 11
1987 - Ramona Chapel and Red Schoolhouse relocated to Heritage Junction [story]
Red Schoolhouse


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
Friday, Apr 2, 2021
When the City put the Santa Clarita 2020 strategic plan in motion more than five years ago, we knew it was an ambitious undertaking.
Thursday, Apr 1, 2021
Last spring, the City Council heard the community’s call to step in and preserve the landmark Valencia Ice Station. After months of renovations and updates, the 93,000 square foot building is almost ready to welcome the community back - to the newly renamed The Cube.
Tuesday, Mar 16, 2021
We have now reached the one-year anniversary of the shutdown of society as we responded to the threat of COVID-19.
Tuesday, Mar 2, 2021
Picture this…the sun has just set on another brisk spring day.
Monday, Mar 1, 2021
Spring is upon us, and with it comes longer days, greener hillsides, and warmer temperatures that invite outdoor exploration.
Monday, Feb 22, 2021
Helping our students stay on track to complete their goals remains our top priority. To that end, we are offering a wide variety of classes this spring designed to do just that.

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
1987 - Ramona Chapel and Red Schoolhouse relocated to Heritage Junction [story]
Red Schoolhouse
1835 - Outlaw and Rocks/Park/High School namesake Tiburcio Vasquez born in Monterey, Calif. [story]
Tiburcio Vasquez
Nearly 100 people gathered in front of the highly anticipated Laemmle 7 in Newhall to officially open the theater to the Santa Clarita Valley community.
Laemmle Officially Opens in Old Town Newhall
The city of Santa Clarita Parks, Recreation and Community Services Commission recently met to receive an update from city staff about the status of the Pioneer Oil Refinery in Newhall.
Parks Commissioners Asked to Advise on Pioneer Oil Refinery’s Future
A judge’s ruling this week dealt a setback to the Tejon Ranch Co.’s proposed 19,000-unit Centennial development project in the upper northwest corner of Los Angeles County.
Judge Halts Centennial Development Project in Tejon Ranch
The California Community College Athletic Trainers Association has named longtime athletic trainer, and current College of the Canyons associate athletic director, Chad Peters its 2021 Athletic Trainer of the Year.
Chad Peters Named CCCATA 2021 Athletic Trainer of the Year
Los Angeles County Public Health on Friday confirmed 48 new deaths and 752 new cases of COVID-19 countywide, with 27,432 total cases in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Friday COVID-19 Roundup: 27,432 Total SCV Cases; County Nears 5 Million Administered Doses
The Santa Clarita City Council Legislative Committee briefly met Thursday morning to recommend that the City Council oppose four pieces of state legislation that would expand the state’s land-use authority.
Council Committee Recommends Opposition to State Land-Use Bills
In an effort to provide kids across the Santa Clarita Valley with a safe place to play and learn over spring break while parents are working, the Boys & Girls Club of SCV holds an annual camp.
Boys & Girls Club Holds Spring Break Camp
In recognition of public safety dispatchers' services, the California Highway Patrol joins other law enforcement agencies to recognize National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week on April 11-17, 2021.
CHP to Honor Public Safety Dispatchers During National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week
Officials in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will be hosting a virtual community discussion on child abuse prevention April 20.
L.A. County Sheriffs to Host Child Abuse Prevention Seminar
1937 - Pioneer aviator E.B. Christopher and passenger killed in crash of light plane on Ridge Route near Gorman [story]
wreckage
CBRE announced the sale of a state-of-the-art 24,164 square-foot industrial facility to Tera McHugh and John McHugh, owners of Versatile Systems, Inc.
Valencia Industrial Building Sold to Versatile Systems
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying public health restrictions in place for large events and community gatherings, as well as past participation numbers, the city of Santa Clarita has evaluated several components of the annual Santa Clarita Marathon and is making a necessary change to the event.
City Postpones 2021 Marathon, Event Permanently Moved to February
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed Thursday 52 new deaths and 710 new cases of COVID-19, with 27,417 total cases in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Thursday COVID-19 Roundup: L.A. County Hospitalizations Remain Under 600; SCV Cases Total 27,417
Because of the economic downturn brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, some pet owners may have delayed purchasing their annual pet licenses and are now subject to late penalty fees.
Animal Care & Control Temporarily Waives Pet Licensing Fees
College of the Canyons will welcome José Rivera, award-winning playwright and the first Puerto Rican screenwriter to be nominated for an Oscar, to the School of Visual & Performing Arts’ Virtual Industry Insight Series on Monday, April 12.
COC Virtual Industry Insight Series Welcomes Oscar-Nominated Screenwriter José Rivera
Santa Clarita Artists Association (SCAA) will spotlight contemporary artist Alex Schaeffer in a virtual oil demo on Monday, April 19, from 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
April 19: Virtual Oil Demo by Artist Alex Schaeffer
Spectrum Commercial Real Estate advisors Yair Haimoff, SIOR, Randy Cude, and Matt Sreden represented the seller in the sale of a 23,817-square-foot professional office building in a prime Valencia location.
Avenue Kearny Building Sells for $6 Million
Following stakeholder planning meetings over the course of a year and a public survey period in January, the city of Santa Clarita’s 2021 Local Hazard Mitigation Plan (LHMP) draft update enters the next phase in the approval and adoption process.
Residents Can Now Review Santa Clarita’s 2021 Hazard Mitigation Draft Plan
Cassie Gratton knows how to open a Laemmle theater. The general manager of the Newhall Laemmle, which will open its doors with a ribbon-cutting this Friday, also helped to open Laemmle’s Glendale and Claremont locations.
After Several Delays, Laemmle Newhall Opens Friday
The California Department of Transportation announced that new High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV, or carpool) lanes are open to motorists on Northbound and Southbound Interstate 5 between the Ventura Freeway (State Route 134) interchange in Los Angeles and Magnolia Boulevard in Burbank.
CalTrans Announces Opening of New I-5 Carpool Lanes
1874 - Work completed at Lyon's Station (now Eternal Valley) on first version of Pioneer Oil Refinery [story]
Pioneer Oil Refinery
%d bloggers like this: