Here’s a perfect example of the sort of plant name debacle that we complain about here as often as we can. Here we have a perfectly good thistle that any Scottish king would be proud to have as his emblem but if you look up thistles on Google all you get is a load of wittering about which variety of thistle is the ‘true’ thistle – there’s fourteen or so to choose from.
So, the story goes like this – the Vikings (or Norwegians, or someone like that) were creeping up on a Scottish camp in the middle of the night, possibly hoping to jump into the middle of the camp, switch all the lights on and shout “Surprise! Surprise!” or something along those lines.
In order to do the creeping up in a professional manner – as befits a Viking war band, the attackers had removed their shoes and socks, tucked each sock into its appropriate shoe and left them in a neat line on the beach near their ships. All went well until, nearing the Scottish encampment one of the Vikings stood on a thistle and said “Ow!” – In Norwegian or Danish of course.
This woke the Scots in the camp who all got up and came running over to see what variety of thistle had saved them from being slaughtered in their beds.