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Thistle Symbolism

lavender or crimson red grace silvery greens ~

the thistle has a wonderful story to tell . . .

Thank you for . . . prickly thorns ~

How does such a prickly flower become so beloved aside from its inherent beauty? Well, it has quite a story to tell, indeed.

Aye, lads and lasses, let's begin sometime around 1250 AD in the wee country of Scotland. The legend goes that King Haakon of Norway was intent on conquering the Scottish Clansmen. He had his army land on the Coast of Largs in the dead of night to make a surprise attack on the sleeping Scotts. Strategic warriors these Norsemen were indeed. They removed their footwear to move quietly and stealthily through the brush. 

The attack was thwarted when one of the Norsemen stepped on the prickly thistle. He screamed out in pain and which awakened the sleeping Scots. The Scots prevailed and won the day. 

It is decreed ~

Thistle on silver coin

The Order of the Thistle

King James III of Scotland first decreed the thistle be engraved on silver coins in 1470 as the royal symbol. 

The thistle became the official national flower of Scotland in 1540 by King James V of Scotland in honor of the part it played in the victory over the Vikings.  Since that time, the thistle has become the official emblem of Scotland as well. King James founded the Order of the Thistle and used it in the common badge worn by his twelve knights over their left breast. It consists of a cross surmounted by a star of four silver points encircled in a green border with their motto lettered in gold.


The motto: “Nemo me impune lacesset”, “No-one harms me without  punishment”, is more commonly translated as “Wha daurs meddle wi me”.

Collar for The Order of the Thistle

From football to Carnegie and across the sea ~

The thistle is used on the emblems of nearly every Scottish football club. Prior to 2013, it was incorporated into the symbols of seven of eight Scottish Police Services.


A symbol of love and troth was designed and sold by the "locked booth" merchants of Edinburgh depicting the monogram of Mary Queen of Scots, comprised of two hearts entwined and crowned and surrounded by the thistle as a betrothal present to Lord Darnley.

To honor his homeland of Scotland, Carnegie implemented the thistle into emblems of his institutes.

The logo for the Encyclopedia Britannica incorporates the thistle as well.

The Flag of Montreal has the thistle as a symbol of the Scots.

Encyclopedia Britannica


Mary Queen of Scotts  Scottish Luckenbooth Emblem

Carnegie Institute 

of Technology

Thistle as Heraldic Badge


Flag of Montreal

Gordon K. (Sandy) Douglass designed the high performance racing dinghy, the Thistle, in 1945. Two popular models, the Highlander and the Flying Scot are popular in America both for racing and pleasure. The Thistle Association holds regattas across the nation throughout the year.

The Inn on the Lake Okoboji

Regatta of Thistle Dinghies

The Grand Hotel

The Lorraine perspective ~

Grandes Armes de Nancy

Cross of Nancy

The home of quiche Lorraine and Joan d'Arc, Lorraine, France is nestled right next to Germany, Luxembourg, and Belgium. It has been at the heart of warfare for more than 3,000 years (the great Prussian wars and others).  


Nancy is the capital of The Duchy of Lorraine and famous for several battles throughout history, many of which have been called,  "The Battle of Nancy." The most recent in 1944 during the Lorraine Campaign in which the U.S. Army Third freed the people from Nazi occupation.


Hence, Lorraine has adopted the motto, Non inultus premor - 'I cannot be touched with impunity' ~ a reference to the official symbol of Nancy, the thistle.

The thistle was an emblem of the Virgin Mary in the Middle Ages because its white sap brought to mind the milk falling from the breast of the Mother of God and was combined with the Cross of Lorraine by the Duke as a Christian symbol.  The pinkish lavender color of the flower is symbolic of divine love and royalty.

As Light as a Thistle 

Issued in 2010 
Giclee on paper 
PS: 13-3/4 x 9-1/2 ins.

Edition: 250 and 25 artist's proofs 

Artist Proof  ~ $175

Regular edition no longer available.

Graceful Landing 

Issued in 2017 
Giclee on paper 
IS: 11-1/2 x 4 ins. 

Edition: 250 and 25 artist's proofs. 

Regular Edition ~ $60

Artist Proof ~ $150

Butterflies and finches ~

Bird enthusiasts and butterfly lovers well know, the thistle is coveted by finches and butterflies and many more. There are more than 200 types of thistles and the Scottish thistle is the most common. The red thistle thrives in the southern United States, planting zones 7 to 10.

Red Thistle 


First in a special set of three flower prints to be released annually.

Issued in 2017 
Giclee on paper 

Regular Edition ~ $60 *framing not included

P Buckley Moss Society Member Special Price ~ $50  *framing not included

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this print will benefit The P Buckley Moss Foundation for Children's Education. 

Click the button below to see "Red Thistle" framed . . .

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