marsh thistle
Cirsium palustre (L.) Scop.


Cirsium palustre is an herbaceous biennial that can grow from 4-5 ft. (1.25-1.5 m) tall. The glabrate stem is winged and armed with spines that result from its decurrent leaf bases. Much of the plant is covered in long, sticky hairs.
The leaves are spiny and pinnatifid. They are linear-oblong in shape and have tufts of hairs on the lower surface. The lower leaves are 6-8 in. (15-20 cm) long.
This plant usually has many purple flower heads borne on short peduncles that do not reach more than 0.4 in. (1 cm) in length. The ovoid involucre is 0.4-0.75 in. (1-2 cm) across. The bracts are not spine-tipped. The flowers appear in June and July.
The mature pappus is white and 0.4 in. (1 cm) in length or less. The small, straw-colored achenes are 0.1 in. (3 mm) long.
Ecological Threat
Cirsium palustre grows best in moist acidic soils. It can be found in any disturbed areas as long as its moisture requirements are met. It is common on roadsides and in wet ditches. It is also somewhat shade tolerant, and therefore can be found in moist woods. A combination of wind dispersal and intermediated shade tolerance makes Cirsium palustre a threat to moist, minimally managed habitats.


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EDDMapS Distribution

EDDMapS Distribution - This map is incomplete and is based only on current site and county level reports made by experts, herbaria, and literature. For more information, visit

State Regulated List

State Regulated List - This map identifies those states that list this species on their regulated list. For more information, visit

Taxonomic Rank

Kingdom: Plantae
Phylum: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Subclass: Asteridae
Order: Asterales
Family: Asteraceae
Genus: Cirsium
Subject: Cirsium palustre (L.) Scop.


Plants - Forbs/Herbs