En EspaÑol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - November 26, 2013

From: Dripping Springs, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives
Title: Advisability of growing Silybum marianum (Milk thistle)
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I just received a load of clay-mix-dirt - and after our recent rains noticed the pile sprouting what looks like "Milk Thistle." Lots of them. The leaves are spiny and variegated - quite pretty. I was thinking I might translate a few to my native garden but I don't know much about this plant other than it is interesting looking. Would this be a bad idea?

ANSWER:

Silybum marianum (Milk thistle) is a native of Southern Europe, the Mediterranean area and North Africa.  As an introduced species to North America it is considered invasive or, at the very least, a noxious weed in many areas.  It is on the Arkansas Noxious Weeds List, the Oregon Noxious Weeds List and the Washington Noxious Weeds List. Here is a link from King County, Washington with information about its bad qualities.   On the other hand, it is also praised for its herbal medicinal properties, but see also the Mayo Clinic reference.  All in all, I would say it would be a pretty bad idea to grow milk thistle.  First of all, it's not native to Texas nor even to North America.  Second of all, it has the potential to be a problem plant if it escapes your flower beds and the seeds can be distributed by the wind.  Why not get seeds of one or more of the Texas thistle species [Cirsium texanum (Texas thistle) or Cirsium horridulum (Yellow thistle)] to grow?

 

From the Image Gallery


Texas thistle
Cirsium texanum

Yellow thistle
Cirsium horridulum

More Non-Natives Questions

Request for seeds or cuttings for Malvaceae from French Botanical Garden
September 03, 2011 - hello We create a botanical garden devoted to the Malvaceae, can you help us by sending us seeds or cuttings? friendly the director jean-marie Jolicard botanical garden beaulieu 23170 Lépaud F...
view the full question and answer

Replacing non-natives and kudzu in Spartanburg SC
July 12, 2009 - I would dearly love to cut down the red tips and leland cypress, as well as the 2 Savannah hollies and 15 ft cleyera which the kudzu has overrun along my property line, get rid of a chunk of lawn and ...
view the full question and answer

Survival of non-native windmill palm in Zone 6b
March 28, 2009 - Will a windmill palm survive a Zone 6b Michigan climate; if so would I have to wrap it up in burlap in wintertime?
view the full question and answer

Growth rate of non-native Asclepias curassavica
April 29, 2014 - As a volunteer at the National Butterfly center, I wonder how long from starting the seeds until the plant reaches approximately 20 cm tall does it take a tropical milkweed (asclepias curassavica) to ...
view the full question and answer

Privacy Tree for Austin, TX
February 10, 2013 - Can you recommend a tall privacy plant similar to the Thuya Green Giant that is suitable to the Austin environment?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center