September Flower of the Month: Ground Thistle (MT: Xewk tal-Mixta) Atractylis gummifera

Alongside the Sea Squill (featured in August) the Ground Thistle is one of the only species to flower boldly at this time of year. Its first signs of life come as quite a surprise in the form of a bright pink flower emerging from the drab landscape and dried up foliage from the preceding season. The thorny leaves will start appearing in winter after it seeds. This hardy perennial plant needs very little to grow and it remains alive thanks to its underground rhizome. Although the plant is small and stemless it is rendered conspicuous by being the only touch of colour you will encounter at the end of summer in the steppe/ garigue habitats. It is another sign that autumn rains are hopefully approaching soon!

Note: this is a poisonous plant and should not be collected. It is also one of the sole food providers for pollinators at the moment so enjoy without disturbing.

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Photos and text by Annalise Falzon