Roses are red, violets are blue and some thorny flowers may just prick you! Many different flowers have thorns that grow along their stems to protect them from predators. Short and sharp, thorns look like tiny claws that pierce and scratch anything it comes into contact with, preventing the flowers from ending up as a snack for a hungry herbivore or in the hand of a human looking to pick a pretty blossom.
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Also known as the Christ plant and the crown of thorns, the Christ thorn takes its name from the Bible. Legend has it that the thorns on Jesus' crown were made from this plant, according to Union Community College. Evidence suggests the flower was introduced to the Middle East from Africa before the time of Christ. The plant is a woody shrub that can reach 6 feet in height and flowers throughout the year, releasing many blossoms during winter. The tiny flowers are pinkish red, though a less common variety features yellow blossoms. If the branches of the tree are cut, they weep latex, a sticky white sap. Contact with the sap of the Christ thorn can cause skin irritation similar to poison ivy and, in combination with the thorns, keeps the plant safe from animals that might try to eat it.
The Mysore thorn comes from the tropical regions of India, but has spread across the world. The plant is a hardy evergreen shrub that can grow to heights of 13 feet, but if it climbs along a wall or other surface, can reach lengths of more than 32 feet. The plant's thorny branches split off into sections covered in small green leaves and its bright yellow flowers grow in bunches on upward-reaching branches. According to the Invasive Species Specialist Group, the Mysore thorn can grow in many different environments, thriving in wet tropical areas, dry scrub, and forests at almost any elevation. The plant is also a menace in many areas, blocking off roads and waterways while invading forests, where it can smother other plant life.
Perhaps the most famous of all thorny flowers, roses and their sharp thorns have been immortalised in tales like "Sleeping Beauty." According to the Online Flower Guide, roses have been cultivated since 5000BC and were painted on cave walls during the Stone Age. Roses can climb to heights of 16 feet and there are more than 100 varieties of the flower, many bred by devoted collectors and gardeners. The stems of roses are covered in prickly thorns and the plants release fragrant, many-petalled flowers that come in shades of orange, yellow, red and pink. Roses are often dried and made into potpourri, and their oil is a common ingredient in Middle Eastern cooking, where it is often used to sweeten desserts. Rosehips can be eaten as well and contain a high amount of vitamin C.
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