bull thistle
Cirsium vulgare (Savi) Ten.


Cirsium vulgare is an annual or biennial, herbaceous plant that invades disturbed areas throughout the United States. The spiny, spreading, winged stems are up to 7 ft. (2.1 m) tall.
Leaves are 3-12 in. (7.6-30.5 cm) long, lance-shaped and very hairy.
Flowers develop, at the apex of the plant, from June to September. The purple flower heads are 1.5-2 in. (3.8-5.1 cm) in diameter and 1-2 in. (2.5-5.1 cm) long with narrow, spine-tipped bracts.
Fruits have several bristles on the tip and are up to 0.2 in. (5 mm) long.
Ecological Threat
Cirsium vulgare can invade almost any type of disturbed area, such as forest clearcuts, riparian areas and pastures. Plants can form dense thickets, displacing other vegetation. The spiny nature of the plant renders it unpalatable to wildlife and livestock and reduces the forage potential of pastures. Cirsium vulgare is native to Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa. It is thought to have been introduced to the eastern United States during colonial times and the western United States in the late 1800s. It is currently found in all 50 states.


Selected Images


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 www.eddmaps.org

State Regulated List

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

State Regulated List
   No Data for this state
   Troublesome or Common weed in one or more crops

Most Troublesome / Most Common Agricultural Weed List
This map identifies those states that consider this species either most troublesome or most common in at least one commodity. For more information, visit the MTMC project page.

Invasive Listing Sources

Taxonomic Rank

Kingdom: Plantae
Phylum: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Subclass: Asteridae
Order: Asterales
Family: Asteraceae
Genus: Cirsium
Subject: Cirsium vulgare (Savi) Ten.

Synonyms and Other Names

Other Common Names:
common thistle, spear thistle

Related Scientific Names:
Carduus lanceolatus (Savi) Ten. (Synonym)
Carduus vulgaris (Savi) Ten. (Synonym)
Cirsium lanceolatum (Savi) Ten. (Synonym)


Plants - Forbs/Herbs