The Carlinaacaulis thistle has the most wonderful ground hugging spiky leaves hence the name Carline Thistle. It is about 30 cm tall when in flower. It has creamy white flower petals that look and feel like a dried flower. The flowers start to open in July and all summer it attracts the wildlife. Sometimes it seems like there is a typical British orderly queue forming. A bit like the stacking system above Heathrow Airport airspace as the wildlife wait to land on the flowers. While in the winter months the dry flower heads make a very cozy home for ladybirds in diapause.
Carlinaacaulis Wildlife Benefits
In fact it is also the food source for the unattractive larvae of the Metzneria aestivella moth. The larvae look like maggots but I live too far north to have this moth visit my garden.
Carlinaacaulis – The Weather Clock
Each stem has only one flower but there’s something really special about each flower – they can predict the rain! When the plant senses that rain is on the way it closes its petals in order to protect its pollen. As a result it’s aptly nicknamed ‘The Weather Clock’.
The Carlina acaulis Thistle weather clock – rain is forecast!
Carlinaacaulis Autumn and Winter Interest
Carlina acaulis winter interest seed heads
I leave the flower heads to turn to seed each year but so far I’ve never had any seedlings germinate around the parent plant. The seed heads look good during the winter months and in early spring I cut the dead stems down before the new spiky leaves appear. It is pest and disease free. Furthermore it never needs staked and is just perfect to be classed as a garden worthy native. Moreover mine has been happily growing in the garden for nearly 12 years.
Rosie is a passionate wildlife gardener in Scotland, a Perthshire / Tayside flower and garden photographer and writer. She enjoys soaking up nature in her own garden and is easily distracted from doing the weeding by anything that buzzes, creeps, crawls or flutters. She enjoys sharing the beauty of creation through her photography.