One of the few plants which make their appearance at the end of summer in the typical garrigue habitat of Dingli Cliffs is the Ground Thistle (Xewk tal-Mixta). The bright purple flowers emerge from an otherwise parched landscape amongst the dried up foliage of the previous season.
The presence of its underground rhizome is crucial for surviving the hot and unforgiving summer months, from which the flower head emerges as a stemless plant very close to the ground. Upon flowering, the plant is surrounded by dried vegetation, because its thorny leaves only appear after it sets seed, during autumn.
At the moment, the ground thistle acts as one of the few sources of nectar for pollinators in the otherwise dry landscape.
Although the plant has a history of use in folk medicine, it is highly toxic, and most of its toxicity comes from the gum found in the root.