An Eco-sustainable World
HerbaceousSpecies Plant

Galactites tomentosus

Galactites tomentosus

The purple milk thistle (Galactites tomentosus Moench, 1794) is a herbaceous species belonging to the Asteraceae family.

Systematic –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Division Magnoliophyta,
Class Magnoliopsida,
Order Asteridae,
Suborder Asterales,
Asteraceae family,
Subfamily Cichorioideae,
Cardueae Tribe,
Subtribe Carduinae,
Genus Galactites,
Species G. tomentosus.
The terms are synonymous:
– Centaurea elegans All. (1785);
– Centaurea galactites L. (1753);
– Galactites elegans (All.) Soldano (1991);
– Galactites pumilus Porta (1892);
– Lupsia galactites (L.) Kuntze (1891).

Etymology –
The term Galactites comes from the Greek γάλα, γάλακτος gála, gálaktos, milk, in reference to the white color of the thick hair that covers the stem and leaves of species of this genus.
The specific epithet tomentosus comes from the Latin toméntum, down; that is, covered in hair.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Galactites tomentosus is a plant distributed throughout the Mediterranean basin, from Greece to the Iberian Peninsula, Morocco, Madeira and the Canary Islands. The species is also naturalized in other European countries, such as Great Britain and Germany and has been introduced in the Azores.
Its habitat is that of sunny places where it usually grows on uncultivated or barren land, desolate places, well-drained soil, pastures and roadsides; in its range it is frequent from sea level up to 1300 m above sea level.

Description –
Galactites tomentosus is an annual herbaceous plant, very thorny, partially covered with whitish tomentum and up to 1 m tall.
It has erect stems with spiny wings and generally branched distally.
The leaves, which can be large, are alternate, from pinnate to pinnatiform more or less deeply, all spiny, the basal ones short petioles and rosettes and the remaining decurrent, with prominent veins on the lower surface, often widely variegated with white on said vein, and with the presence of white fuzz.
The flower heads, terminal, often pendulous or subpendulous, are solitary or in corymbiform inflorescences, possibly supported by a 0.3-9 cm peduncle, longitudinally striated, tomentose, white, wingless and with few or no leaves. They are ovoid, spider-shaped, with imbricate bracts arranged in 5-7 series, progressively larger from the outside towards the inside, with a yellowish apical spine of 1.5-5 mm and a spider-like back, except for the innermost ones , oblong-lanceolate, glabrous, helpless, with a frightening apex and generally of a pinkish brown colour. The receptacle is flat, honeycombed and with blades reduced to smooth, whitish hairs.
The peripheral flowers are sterile, from patent to erect-patent, 20-35 mm long (with the corolla practically the same length -10-18 mm as the tube), much larger than the central ones, numerous and hermaphroditic and do not reach 20 mm long, with tube and corolla of the same length.
The corolla is pink, lilac or whitish (there may be 2 or more colors on the same stem), glabrous, five-lobed, with those of the peripheral flowers normally of a more intense colour, while the tube is of a lighter tone.
The fruits are compressed cypseles, 3-5 mm long, yellowish brown, with a hemispherical crown and a pappus of feathery, whitish bristles measuring 13 mm. The apical plate, with a prominent and smooth edge, has a prominent central nectary, more or less pentagonal, and the pappus is simple, white, very drooping, with 1-3 rows of unequal feathery hairs welded to the ring-shaped base.
The flowering period is from April to July and the seeds ripen from August to September.

Cultivation –
Galactites tomentosus is a hemicryptophyte plant with a two-year biological cycle.
Pollination: occurs by insects, such as diurnal and nocturnal butterflies (lepidoptera, moths and beetles) and bees. It is therefore an entomogamous pollination.
This plant has a wide distribution throughout much of the Mediterranean basin and is often very frequent.
From a phytosociological point of view, the species is considered characteristic of the Echio plantaginei-Galactition tomentosae alliance O. Bolòs & Molinier, 1969, which brings together the sub-nitrophilous annual communities present in uncultivated fields, along roadsides and in abandoned areas.
It is often associated with other nitrophilous therophytes, such as Echium plantagineum, Bromus hordeaceus, Lolium rigidum, Plantago lanceolata, Plantago lagopus, Medicago rigidula, Lotus ornithopodioides, Sherardia arvensis, Melilotus elegans, Silene fuscata, etc.
While this plant is often considered a bothersome weed in the Mediterranean regions, in some temperate climate areas of Europe and the United States it is used as an ornamental plant for its silvery-green foliage and rich flowering. There is also an “alba” variety characterized by variegated leaves. In cultivation the species requires well-drained soil and very sunny exposures.
Reproduction occurs by seed.

Customs and Traditions –
Galactites tomentosus is a plant known by various local and vernacular names; among these we report: Aprocchiu fimminedda, Cardunazzu, Cacucciulidda sarvaggia, Spina janca (Sicily), Bardu angioninu, Cardu biancu, Cardu santu, Cardu de Signorus (Sardinia), Batticristi (Liguria), Scarlina (Italy), purple milk thistle (Great Britain ), Galactites cotonneux (France), Milchdistel (Germany).
This species was described by the German botanist Conrad Moench in 1794. In reality, already in 1785 the plant had been identified by another author, the Turin botanist and doctor Carlo Allioni, and named Centaurea elegans All.
For the priority criterion present in the botanical nomenclature code, the latter name, being earlier than Galactites tomentosus, would be the most correct and the new combination Galactites elegans was therefore proposed. However, since the species was known for a very long period of time as Galactites tomentosus, the conservation of this name to the detriment of Galactites elegans was proposed and accepted by the scientific community.
It has already been considered an edible plant by ancient authors, such as Diodorus and Dioscorides. In particular, the young inflorescence and the related floral scape are used, which can be eaten raw as a salad, after cleaning.
The leaves and stem are used not only as salads, but also in the production of preserves in oil or vinegar. Furthermore, folk medicine attributes astringent, stimulating, diuretic, hypertensive and tonic properties to the species. In some areas of southern Italy and in particular in Calabria, Sardinia and Sicily, excellent honey is produced from this species.

Preparation Method –
Galactites tomentosus is a plant that can be used as food.
You can use young leaves (taken in areas with no pollution) to which add olive oil, garlic (optional), salt and pepper to taste. and lemon juice (optional).
The leaves can also be cooked in a pan, heating a little olive oil over medium heat, adding various spices, etc., or cooked like a vegetable.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora d’Italia, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

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Attention: Pharmaceutical applications and food uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; we therefore decline any responsibility for their use for healing, aesthetic or food purposes.

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