This big fella had me stumped, due to where I found it. Cirsium vulgare is generally found along roadsides, in fields, and in waste places. And this thistle was all by its lonesome at the side of one of the dampest areas of a wooded path. Must be Marsh or Swamp Thistle, thought I. No, those have smooth, not thorny stems. And this one was definitely thorny, as you can see by the "rigid, yellow-tipped spines on the flower bracts" (Dwelley, 347). An interesting aspect to this particular plant is that its leaves do not look fully developed. Perhaps the sparsity of sunlight made the plant conserve where it could (i.e., less developed leaves) while still allowing the flower to bloom and the plant to reproduce? Will have to check.
Learn to identify one hundred species of flora within walking distance of your home! scsours began this challenge in July of 2008, and I was eager to hop on the bandwagon about a month later. I've remembered much and learned even more. It's been a fun but slow process. Spring has finally arrived here in Massachusetts, and I will hopefully be posting often soon.