There are thistles everywhere here in Parco della Caffarella in Rome:
They are very architectural against the flowing meadows of buttercups beneath:
They are also frighteningly sharp:
One of the paler purple thistles has a Painted Lady butterfly on it, fresh from Africa:
Their journey is spectacular:
Here’s the first mention of Vanessa cardui by Carl Linnaeus, who first named it, in his Systema Naturae, published in 1735:
I check the etymology of the name Vanessa card on the Internet: “The genus Vanessa is Greek for butterfly. The origin of the species cardui is currently unknown.” Unknown? Surely not?
I check an Italian website and here’s what it says:
“The Latin name of the species “cardui” (Carduus) easily identifies, on the contrary, with the essence preferred by this butterfly.”
“Easily identifies”? “The essence preferred”? That’s an object lesson in how to say so much to people who already know what you’re talking about and yet say nothing to anyone who doesn’t. It helps to know that carduus means thistle. The Painted Lady; it’s the Thistle Butterfly.
There’s a beautiful yellow and black bee on this one. At least I think it’s a bee. The lack of hairs on its body are worrying me though. I check and it’s a Mammoth Wasp, scientific name Megascolia. This is the tiny male mega Mammoth Wasp. The females reach 6cm. They are parasites and lay their eggs inside the larvae of beetles like the Rhinoceros Beetle. Then they eat them from the inside. Lovely.
The world’s full of extraordinary life, if only our constant consumption would stop killing it.