Cirsium vulgare (Savi) Tenore
The words or terms in red
(actually dark orange) in the text are defined in a
Cirsium vulgare, an
in North America, is native to Europe,
western Asia, and North Africa. It probably was introduced to eastern North
America during colonial times as a contaminant in seed or ballast in the late
1800s or early 1900s. It as been classified as a noxious, restricted, or
prohibited weed or weed seed in many states in the United States and in some
The plant is biennial, it
can reach 2 m in height and is usually multibranched.
In the first year plants form a rosette
that may develop to 3 feet in diameter,
with oblanceolate to
It has a chromosome number
(2n) of 68. It belongs to the
In Greek κιρσιον
is the name of a Thistle that was used to heal varicose veins,
and κιρσοσ (kirsos)
means varicose vein,
kirsion being then the (bygone) remedy of kirsos.
As for Thistle it is the common
vernacular of most
Cirsium species (and of some Carduus species too).
In Latin, vulgaris means ordinary, common; and
vulgare is an epithet
frequently appearing in the names of weeds.
Some of the vernacular names of
Cirsium vulgare are: Bull Thistle, Common Thistle and
Some of the French vernacular names are
Gros chardon, Chardon vulgaire and Chardon lancéolé.
Cirsium vulgare has also been known as:
- Carduus lanceolatus L.
- Carduus vulgaris Savi
- Cirsium lanceolatum (L.) Scop.
- Cirsium lanceolatum var. hypoleucum DC.
Cirsium vulgare is distinguished from other thistles by the following
combination of characteristics:
Cirsium vulgare is distinguished from Cirsium arvense by:
- the leaf blades, especially those that are larger and deeply
lobed, are rough to the touch like
medium sandpaper and dark green;
- the leaf blades have spines borne on
the adaxial face;
- the flower heads are one to two inches wide and one and a half to two
and a half inches high with deep purple flowers;
- the bristles of the
pappus are feathery (this
characteristic distinguishes species in the genus Cirsium
from those in the genus Carduus, which have unbranched,
- the pubescence on the two faces of
the leaves, while those of Cirsium arvense are not
pubescent on the top face, and may or may not be so on the underside;
- the flower bracts having spines,
which is not the case of Cirsium arvense;
- Cirsium arvense has much smaller flowers and weak prickles.
Cirsium vulgare is erect and bushy in appearance, up to 2 m high,
and has many spreading branches. It exhibits variation in several
morphological characteristics that have been
described as subspecies by some authors.
The root system consists of several primary roots each with several smaller
- Oblong-lanceolate to
- Entire to
coarsely pinnatifid with
rigidly divergent lobes
ending in in long, pointed, yellow spines.
- The adaxial face with
septate trichomes along
- The abaxial face with woolly hairs.
- The adaxial face green, the abaxial face gray.
- The blades extending down
the petiole and along stem,
forming long, prickly wings.
- In corymbiform or
- Without ray flowers and with
bisexual disk flowers about
one inch long.
- With purple corollas, rarely white,
with 5 to 7 lobes.
- With around ten series of phyllaries
strongly imbricate, their apices
with spines measuring 2 to 5 mm.
- Blooming from July to September in my area, 25 km north of Montréal.
Large individuals may produce tens of thousands of wind-dispersed seeds.
- Light brown with cypselae with
- Measuring from 3 to 4.5 mm by about 1.5 mm.
- With a narrow yellow band at the top.
- With a pappus from 20 to 30 mm long
of many feathery bristles, that is easily broken off
(and usually absent from seeds found on or in soil).
Cirsium vulgare occurs in a wide variety of habitats. It is an
invasive weed of disturbed sites, pastures,
meadows, forest openings and roadsides. It can be common along edges of fresh
and brackish marshes, and in meadows and
mesic forest openings.
It is not typically found on sand or on soils with high
humus content and is
absent from pure clay soils.
It does not grow well in shade and drought.
Cirsium vulgare is found on every continent except Antarctica, although
its distribution is confined mostly to the northern and southern temperate
zones. An introduced species, it now common throughout the Pacific States, and
it is the most common and widespread of pasture and rangeland thistles in
western North America. The map show the USA states and Canadian provinces where
the plant can be found.
Cirsium vulgare is a noxious weed that has invaded disturbed habitats
across the American continent. Distasteful to livestock, it can increase in
heavily grazed pastures. It is most troublesome in recently or repeatedly
disturbed areas such as pastures, overgrazed rangelands, recently burned
forests and forest clearcuts, and along roads, ditches, and fences.
In a variety of wildland habitats it competes with and displaces native
species, including forage species favored by deer and elk.
In addition to outcompeting native plant species for water, nutrients, and
space, the presence of Cirsium vulgare in hay decreases feeding value
and lowers market price.
Native North Americans used the roots and young leaves and newly bolted stems
of Cirsium species for food.
The photos of the gallery were taken either with one of the following:
The title in the window shows the date when the picture was taken,
i.e. jan_30_06... would mean that the photo was taken on the 30th of
January, the 06 is for the 6th picture taken that day.
- Minolta DiMAGE 7.
- Canon PowerShot A530
- Canon Xt Rebel, usually with the EF-S60mm f/2.8 Macro USM objective.
- EPSON Perfection 1650 (scanner).
The month, day and picture number might be followed by a letter:
- c for the Canon Xt Rebel.
- a for the Canon A530.
- m for the Minolta DiMAGE 7.
- s for the EPSON scanner.
Click on the thumbnails to get larger view.
The original photos are usually in TIFF format,
the photos shown are generally in JPEG format,
usually of dimensions one half (surface one quarter)
for loading time reduction.
The leaves were scanned at 300 dpi,
and the dimensions of the resulting picture divided by 2 (area divided by 4);
this allows to measure the dimensions of the leaves.
Flower heads, phyllaries
The seeds were scanned at 300 dpi,
this allows to measure the dimensions of the seeds.