Variegated thistle

Silybum marianum

An upright and short-lived thistle usually growing 90-180 cm tall. It forms a basal rosette of very large variegated leaves (25-60 long and 12-30 cm wide) at first. These leaves are variously lobed and armed with rigid yellowish-coloured spines (5-12 mm long) on their margins. Its large purplish flower-heads (up to 13 cm across) are borne singly at the tips of the branches. These flower-heads possess several rows of large, stiff bracts (about 4 cm long) ending in large sharp spines. Its relatively large mottled seeds (5-8 mm long) are topped with a tuft of numerous silky bristles (12-20 mm long).

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