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Don't Judge A Thistle By Its Bristles!

posted on 10/5/23

Did you know Iowa is home to six native species of thistles?  Three of which are considered rare or very uncommon within the state.  Thistles are generally all lumped together and considered bad but did you know thistles play a vital role in many habitats?   Iowa's species of native thistles can be found growing in many different habitats from dry remnant prairies, roadside remnants, heritage pastures, woodland edges, to fens and wetlands.  Seeds from native thistles provide food for many different bird species, including Iowa's beautiful state bird, the American goldfinch.    During the summer goldfinches visit thistle plants to collect fluff from the seed heads to line their nests.   Nectar from thistles is highly desirable to many pollinators including many bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.    Just watch during the summer and fall to see where the monarch butterflies, bumble bees, and honey bees are nectaring.

Click here to learn more about Iowa's native thistle species and learn how to control unwanted thistles.

Click here to visit the ISU Extension and Outreach wbsite for information on controlling non-native invasive thistles.

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