‘Beautiful’ Prairie Weed Continues Perennial Threat

Thistles are certainly noxious and obnoxious as well.

A lady from the city was driving down the country road and saw a pasture consumed by musk thistles, pulled to a stop, got out with her camera and took dozens of pictures of “those beautiful flowers.” She did not go into the pasture, nor attempt to touch the malicious weeds, or her opinion would have surely changed.


Not unlike bindweed and cockleburs, thistles can consume the ranch if action is not taken to prevent takeover. There are varieties, such as bull, spear, sow, Canada and   Russian thistles, which aren’t as cantankerous as the pretty one: musk thistle.  Despite their appearance, the thorny plants can crowd out all grass and soon   dominate an area.

Horses, cattle and wildlife are no help. They hate the weeds as much as we and other landowners, and won’t graze anywhere near them. We’ve seen certain locales where musk thistle acreage is in annual expansion. Landowners must be blind, or they don’t
know how noxious the boogers are.

As bad, if not worse, are those counties which permit thistle populations to increase. State laws require control practices, yet there seem to be none. Thistles can be   managed, but probably not stopped, because birds, wind and other natural sources keep reseeding. Overpowering the intruder is hard, and what works best in one place doesn’t in another.

Certain landowners swear spraying is the best method to reduce musk thistle problems, and it doesn’t take a high-dollar or extremely hazardous chemical to do the job. Others find digging or pulling every plant up by the roots works best. Some have
success chopping plants down or pulling heads from stalks.

For us, digging is the hardest work, but the most successful method of keeping volumes of musk thistle reduced. Parasite control and use of predator diseases have been experimented with, but results are inconsistent. In our opinion, worst thing to  do is mow musk thistles; that seems to spread the problem.

Timing and continuing effort are keys to controlling thistles, whatever system is used.  Spraying must be at exactly the right time to be effective, and mechanical control must occur well before seeding, or the damage is already done. Just because thistles are gone today, doesn’t mean they won’t be back tomorrow. Regular checks are necessary.

Warning of these weeds came in Job 31:40: “Then let thistles grow on that land instead of wheat, and weeds instead of barley. Job’s words are ended.” Likewise control is demanded in Isaiah 34:13: “Thistles will grow in the ruins, and it will become a haunt for jackals and a home for owls.”

As we have found and as is forecasted in Hebrews 6:8: “But if a field bears thorns and thistles, it is useless. The farmer will soon condemn that field and burn it.”

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