Russian thistle is a non-native plant with invasive tendencies, are rounded in appearance and can grow up to three feet tall and six feet wide. Smaller plants can produce thousands of seeds while larger plants can produce over 250,000 seeds. Plants mature late summer/early fall and disperse their seeds by breaking off at their base, thereby allowing the entire plant to tumble in the wind. This plant was reported to the Town as a public safety issue by concerned citizens because of its significant thorns. The Clemson University Diagnostic Plant and Pest Clinic positively identified the plant and SCDHEC-OCRM, which has jurisdiction over the active beach, approved its removal.
If left unchecked, Russian thistle may also form dense stands that in extreme cases could present a barrier to nesting sea turtles. Community volunteers and Sea Pines CSA employees recently worked together with the Town of Hilton Head Island contractors to remove the plants along Sea Pines beaches. These plants prefer to grow on the open beach because they do not tolerate shade well. Plants were removed from the flat beach; dunes were not disturbed. Russian thistle growth will continue to be monitored.
Pictured: Sea Pines CSA Staff Member, Romaine Brockington removing Russian Thistle near Beach Marker 17