Dawn is breaking over a quiet pond. An early December wind sweeps through rustling Big Bluestem, Bottlebrush Grass, and seedhead ghosts of late-season blooms. A muskrat slowly retreats to a half-built lodge as the morning grows brighter. It is unseasonably cold. All is quiet, until a feint flapping of wings is heard above. It grows louder—and louder. Then, with a cacophony of quacks, six mallard ducks splashdown in a dramatic entrance.
Chances are if you have driven along any country road in Illinois, you have seen a tall plant with a spiky silvery thistle-like flower head swaying in the wind. What you may not know is that this plant hides a sinister side. Cutleaf teasel (Dipsacus laciniatus) and its relative the Common teasel (Dipsacus fullonum) are prairie “bullies” and have been slowly taking over our high-quality agricultural landscapes.