En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Advisability of growing <i>Silybum marianum</i> (Milk thistle)

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

Rose bush varieties and time to plant from Hutto TX
October 31, 2013 - What rose bush varieties are recommended for the Hutto Texas area and what time of year is the best time to plant into ground? Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Non-native Empress trees in Beaumont TX
September 26, 2009 - I want to grow some Empress Trees in our yard. We have a huge yard and it is right on the corner of a cross street where they have just put a traffic light. People stopped at the light can see into ...
view the full question and answer

Indoor non-native palm tree turning yellow from Leavenworth WA
March 22, 2011 - Why are my indoor palm plant leaves turning yellow. It's about 4 feet bought at local Home Depot store, and it was beautiful when I brought it home. It gets plenty of light. I have only had it for ...
view the full question and answer

Non-native genista racemosa from Leander TX
March 28, 2012 - Hello, Mr. Smarty Plants. I fear I've made a horrible purchase at a local plant place. Bought a "broom" plant--it's not listed in your database. Latin name: genista racemosa, according to tag. ...
view the full question and answer

Pruning of non-native abelias in Fair Oaks Ranch, TX
January 24, 2011 - I have some old established Abelias that are leggy at the bottom. Can I cut them back, and if so, how far and best time to do so?
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