21 February 1997

Romans boot out thistles?

ROMAN soldiers may have sown the seeds of a cure for one of todays most pernicious weeds – thistles.

The rare thistle broomrape has been found to be a parasite of the common creeping thistle. The plant, which produces 20-100 purple-tinged yellow flowers, weakens or kills the weeds.

Scientists at Bradford University have discovered its weed-killing properties.

At the moment, it only grows near Roman sites in Yorkshire, which suggests it may have been carried there on the boots of Roman soldiers from Europe.n

Roman cohorts may yet prove to be the creeping thistles undoing.