Bull thistle is a weedy introduction from Europe, found statewide. To tell it from our other thistles, note its stems with spiny-margined wings, and its leaves with the upper surface strongly roughened with stiff, spiny bristles.
The flowerheads of bull thistle are reddish purple to purple, with a prominent involucre (the flowerhead base, covered by leaflike bracts), which is covered with a fine, cobweb-like silk. Spiny bracts grow right up to the flowerheads.
Butterfly pea is a low, shrubby, or twining perennial in the pea family, with showy, butterfly-like flowers. The leaves are compound with three leaflets. This species grows in the southern parts of Missouri, in acid soils.
Butterfly weed, striking for its pure orange color, occurs in upland fields, prairies, glades, roadsides, wasteland, dry and rocky woods, and edges of woods, often on disturbed soil. It is also a favorite native plant for gardening.
In case the name doesn’t make it clear, this milkweed is a favorite nectar plant for butterflies, and the leaves are eaten by the caterpillars of monarch butterflies. One of our showiest native wildflowers, butterfly weed is also a favorite of gardeners.
MDC protects and manages Missouri's fish, forest, and wildlife resources. We also facilitate your participation in resource-management activities, and we provide opportunities for you to use, enjoy and learn about nature.