Knotted Thistle (Silybum marianum)
by Hunter Beeger
Milk Thistle is a common plant found in Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park. It is referred to by a plethora of aliases, such as Knotted Thistle, Scottish Thistle, Blessed Thistle or St. Mary’s Thistle. This thistle only takes about two weeks to germinate (begin to sprout) and can grow anywhere from 2 – 6 feet tall (60 – 180 cm.)
Thistle is just one of the many flowering species that add to the park’s biodiversity, as well as being one of many medicinal plants here within our park. Milk Thistle have many medicinal purposes. A number of studies suggest it may improve liver health and boost the immune system. However, studies are inconclusive and there is a lot more work to do before it can be branded a substitute from other medical options. It is known that Milk Thistle is a natural antioxidant and is edible (aside from the prickly leaves.) It is used in teas and can also be incorporated into coffee!
Thistle can be found in many places around the park. It can be found around many of our paved paths and is very noticeable on the paths heading to Wind Mill Lookout and The Narrows. Look for a thick, weed-like stem and bright purple flower heads resembling bergamot. The large alternative leaves are quite waxy and thorny as seen in other thistle subspecies.
If you see Milk Thistle at the park, feel free to send us some photos!
Picking plants within park grounds without a permit is illegal.