Globe artichokes are members of the thistle family, which is the common name for a group of flowering plants characterised by leaves with sharp prickles. Wild artichoke plants often have their leaves covered in prickles, including the stem, flat parts of leaves and even the bud. The prickles protect the wild plant against herbivorous animals, discouraging them from feeding on the plant, whereas the harvested varieties have little or no thorns.Unfortunately this spectacular silver-leafed, fern-like globe artichoke plant hardly ever gets to show off its impressive purple flower, as we enjoy artichokes too much to allow them to bloom and flaunt their pretty blossoms. If not harvested, and allowed to continue its growth, the bud of a globe artichoke goes to seed naturally producing a striking flower. The petals (bracts) open to form striking blooms which range from a pale lilac, blue-purple, or a darker purple, and can vary from 8cm to 16cm in width. These beautiful long-cut stems are often used in large flower arrangements, which last for a longer period of time then other more delicate flowers and are usually added to attractive displays in large hotels or offices.