bull thistle USDA PLANTS Symbol: CIVU
U.S. Nativity: Exotic
Habit: Forbs/Herbs
Cirsium vulgare (Savi) Ten.

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Taxonomic Rank: Magnoliopsida: Asterales: Asteraceae
Synonym(s): common thistle, spear thistle
Native Range: Europe, w. Asia, N. Africa (BAIL);

Bull thistle 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. Bull thistle 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. Bull thistle 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.

Identification, Biology, Control and Management Resources

Selected Images from Invasive.orgView All Images at Invasive.org


Flower(s); close up
Loke T. Kok, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Bugwood.org
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Competition; under dead fir killed by budworm. Swale Creek, Under dead fir killed by western spruce budworm (Choris¬toneura occidentalis); Swale Creek, Heppner Ranger District, Umatilla National Forest, northeastern Oregon
Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org
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Foliage; Basal rosette
Michael Shephard, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org
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Foliage; Basal rosette
Michael Shephard, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org
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Plant(s); large mature plant on timber harvest area
Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org
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Flower(s);
Britt Slattery, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Bugwood.org
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Stem(s);
Dan Tenaglia, Missouriplants.com, Bugwood.org
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Foliage;
Dan Tenaglia, Missouriplants.com, Bugwood.org
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Foliage;
Steve Dewey, Utah State University, Bugwood.org
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Feature(s); Spines
Steve Dewey, Utah State University, Bugwood.org
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Plant(s); in flower
Steve Dewey, Utah State University, Bugwood.org
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Plant(s); habit
Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental, Bugwood.org
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Flower(s); flower
Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental, Bugwood.org
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Fruit(s); seeds
Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental, Bugwood.org
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Plant(s); habit and flowers
Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental, Bugwood.org
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Fruit(s);
Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental, Bugwood.org
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Flower(s); flowers
Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental, Bugwood.org
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Flower(s); habit
Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental, Bugwood.org
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Plant(s); Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. Illustrated flora of the northern states and Canada. Vol. 3: 549.
USDA PLANTS Database, USDA NRCS PLANTS Database, Bugwood.org
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Fruit(s);
Steve Hurst, USDA NRCS PLANTS Database, Bugwood.org
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EDDMapS Distribution:
This map is incomplete and is based only on current site and county level reports made by experts and records obtained from USDA Plants Database. For more information, visit www.eddmaps.org
 


State(s) Where Reported invasive.
Based on state level agency and organization lists of invasive plants from WeedUS database.

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U.S. National Parks where reported invasive:
Antietam National Battlefield (Maryland)
Badlands National Park (South Dakota)
Blue Ridge Parkway (North Carolina)
Colonial National Historical Park (Virginia)
Craters of the Moon National Monument (Idaho)
Dinosaur National Monument (Colorado)
Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)
Great Smoky Mountains National Park (North Carolina & Tennessee)
Haleakala National Park (Hawaii)
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park (West Virginia)
Manassas National Battlefield Park (Virginia)
Minute Man National Historical Park (Massachusetts)
Monocacy National Battlefield Park (Maryland)
Redwood National Park (California)
Rocky Mountains National Park (Colorado)
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks (Californina)
Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)
Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming)
Yosemite National Park (California)



Invasive Listing Sources:
Alabama Invasive Plant Council
California Invasive Plant Council
City of Ann Arbor Michigan Parks and Recreation
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, 1994.
Faith Campbell, 1998
Forest Service-Alaska, 2004
Georgia Exotic Pest Plant Council
Hoffman, R. & K. Kearns, Eds. 1997. Wisconsin manual of control recommendations for ecologically invasive plants. Wisconsin Dept. Natural Resources, Bureau of Endangered Resources. Madison, Wisconsin. 102pp.
Jil M. Swearingen, Survey of invasive plants occurring on National Park Service lands, 2000-2007
John Randall, The Nature Conservancy, Survey of TNC Preserves, 1995.
Maryland Cooperative Extension Service.  2003. Invasive Plant Control in Maryland. Home and Garden Information Center, Home and Garden Mimeo HG88. 4 pp.
Maryland Department of Natural Resources, 1994
Mid-Atlantic Exotic Pest Plant Council, 2005
Native Plant Society of Oregon, 2008
New Jersey Department of Agriculture, Division of Plant Industry, 2004
Pacific Northwest Exotic Pest Plant Council, 1998
Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust, Pennsylvania.
South Carolina Exotic Pest Plant Council
Tennessee Exotic Pest Plant Council
Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, 2009