This deliciously sweet-scented pink-purple flower is the Musk Thistle. It is extremely popular for its nectar with a range of pollinating insects such as butterflies and bumblebees – one can be seen here in the photo, sheltering from this morning’s light shower of rain. Larvae of the Sword-Grass and Frosted Orange moths feed on the plant, and the central pith of the stems can also be cooked and eaten by humans, it is said, amongst other uses. After flowering, the large nutritious seeds, like its relations in the Daisy family; the artichokes’ or the sunflowers’, will be eagerly snapped up by birds such as Linnets and Greenfinches, providing vital stores against the winter months.
Of course, if you look closely, there are actually hundreds of tiny flowers making up each nodding head (shown here), and like any thistle it is protected from browsing mammals by plenty of sharp spines.