Silybum marianum known as milk thistle, is an annual or biannual plant of the Asteraceae family. This thistle has red to purple flowers and shiny pale green leaves with white veins. Originally a native of Southern Europe through to Asia, it is now found throughout the world.
The medicinal parts of the plant are the ripe seeds. Milk Thistle has black shiny seeds, crowned with feathery tufts like those of dandelion seeds. Traditionally, seeds have been roasted for use as a coffee substitute, but it is their historical and modern use in the supportive treatment of liver disease that has attracted attention. Use of the plant as a liver protecting agent dates at least to the first century.
St. Mary’s thistle or the milk thistle, like the thistles of Greece and Northern Europe, is associated with all sorts of myth and magic. The leading bit of local folklore is that while the Virgin Mary was nursing Jesus, her milk spilt onto a thistle. Her milk ran down the leaf, filling the creases with white. Evermore the thistle would have white veins on its leaf in remembrance of the Virgin’s milk. Hence the name “milk thistle”. The plant does indeed have white networks of veins on its leaves, one of its characteristic features that differentiates it from most thistles. The plant is also known as St. Mary’s thistle.
I stay away from annual and biannual plants but this one has bountiful foliage and will be perfect addition to my sand garden.