Thistle (top) and leaves (bottom) surround a symbol of the Scottish Flag

Thistle (top) and leaves (bottom) surround a symbol of the Scottish Flag

This pin shows two of Scotland’s most prominent symbols: the thistle and the flag. This is one of several pins I obtained on trips to Scotland.

Alongside tartan, the thistle is perhaps the most identifiable symbols of all things Scottish, but how did a beautiful but common weed become the national symbol of such a proud race of people? The thistle may only be a humble weed, but it is the emblem of the Scottish nation. The prickly-leaved, pink or purple-flowered “Scotch” thistle is, along with tartan, perhaps the most identifiable symbol of all things Scottish. But how did the thistle earn its place in the heart of the Scots?

In truth, no-one knows, but legend has it that a sleeping party of Scots warriors were saved from ambush by an invading Norse army when one of the attackers trod on a thistle with his bare feet. His cries raised the alarm, the roused Scots duly defeated the invaders, and the thistle was adopted as the symbol of Scotland. Unfortunately, there is no historical evidence for this, but Scots, like other nations, love a good story.

There is also some confusion as to which species of thistle can claim the title of the national symbol. The spear thistle, stemless thistle, cotton thistle, Our Lady’s thistle, musk thistle and melancholy thistle, have all been suggested as possible candidates.

Location: 02-F2