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COTTON THISTLE Onopordum acanthium (Asteraceae) Height to 2.5m. Tall biennial with strongly winged stems armed with spines and coated in cottony down. Grows on waste and disturbed ground, and on verges. FLOWERS are borne in heads, 30-35mm across, with reddish purple florets and a globular base covered in spine-tipped bracts; in clusters (Jul-Sep). FRUITS have unbranched pappus hairs. LEAVES are oblong with wavy, spiny lobes; cottony on both surfaces. STATUS-Possibly introduced; now widespread and local in S and E England but scarce or absent elsewhere.
- © PAUL STERRY/Nature Photographers
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