While the image lasted only a second, there was no mistaking this familiar plant, which has also long been one of my favorite photo subjects. Nor was its appearance in the rural landscape on a show about English society in the least surprising, seeing as how teasels were introduced into North America during the 1700s by European settlers, who employed the prickly seed heads to card or "tease" wool in preparation to spinning.
In spite of its spiny appearance, teasel isn't a thistle. Here in southwestern Ohio we have at least two species of teasel—Common Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum, pictured above, and Cut-Leaved Teasel, Dipsacus lancinatus, which has white rather than lavender flowers. Some folks view teasel as just another invasive to be disparaged and eradicated. I've watched too many goldfinches feeding delightedly on its seeds to share this hardline sentiment. Besides, it's beauty ought to account for something…the world can always use more beauty.