Artichokes and Chop-Suey Greens?

Artichoke thistle (Cynara cardunculus)

I would not have guessed these alien-looking thistle plants along the XTERRA race course in Black Mountain Regional Park are a wild form of the cultivated globe artichoke.

In its description of the artichoke thistle, the California Invasive Plant Council (Cal-IPC) notes the Mediterranean plant was found by Charles Darwin in South America in 1833. It had already escaped cultivation and spread over “several hundred square miles” of the Argentine pampas. Surveys in California from 1860 to 1864 also reported the artichoke as having escaped cultivation. The plant was reported in a pasture in San Diego County as early as 1897.

Another surprise was that the pretty yellow and white flowers along some sections of the course appear to be another Mediterranean plant known as crown daisy or chop-suey greens (Glebionis coronaria). If so, the plant is reportedly used as an ingredient in a number of Asian recipes.

Note: Great care is required when identifying and using wild food plants. Even if the plant is positively identified there can be contamination from herbicides and pesticides, and other potential problems. There may also be conservation concerns, especially if the plant is uncommon, rare or endangered. For example see Safety Guidelines For Edible Wild Food Plants and Foraging Guidelines.