Cirsium vulgare (Spear Thistle)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Asterales
Family: Asteraceae
Subfamily: Carduoideae
Tribe: Cynareae
Genus: Cirsium

About 200[1]; see text

Cirsium is a genus of perennial and biennial flowering plants in the Asteraceae, one of several genera known commonly as thistles. They are more accurately known as Plume thistles. These differ from other thistle genera (Carduus, Silybum and Onopordum) in having feathered hairs to their achenes. The other genera have a pappus of simple unbranched hair.[2]

They are mostly native to Eurasia and northern Africa, with about 60[1] species from North America (although several species have been introduced outside their native ranges).

Thistles are known for their effusive flower heads, usually purple or rose to pink, also yellow or white. The radially symmetrical disk flowers are at the end of the branches. They have erect stems and prickly leaves, with a characteristic enlarged base of the flower which is commonly spiny. The leaves are alternate, and some species can be slightly hairy. Extensions from the leaf base down the stem, called wings, can be lacking (Cirsium arvense), conspicuous (Cirsium vulgare), or inconspicuous. They can spread by seed, and also by rhizomes below the surface (Cirsium arvense). The seed has tufts of tiny hair, or pappus, which can carry them far by wind.

Cirsium thistles are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species - see list of Lepidoptera that feed on Cirsium. The seeds are attractive to small finches such as American Goldfinch.

Most species are considered weeds. Cirsium vulgare (Bull Thistle, Common Thistle, or Spear Thistle) is listed as a noxious weed in nine US states. [3] Some species are cultivated in gardens for their aesthetic value and to attract butterflies. Some other common species are: Cirsium lanceolatum, Cirsium palustre, Cirsium oleraceum.

Certain species of Cirsium, like Cirsium monspessulanum, Cirsium pyrenaicum and Cirsium vulgare, have been traditionally used as food in rural areas of Southern Europe. Cirsium oleraceum is cultivated as a food source in Japan and India.

The word 'Cirsium' derives from the Greek word kirsos meaning 'swollen vein'. Thistles were used as a remedy against swollen veins. The flower blooms April to August.



  • Cirsium acarna - Soldier Thistle
  • Cirsium acaule - Stemless Thistle, Dwarf Thistle
  • Cirsium altissimum - Roadside Thistle, Tall Thistle
  • Cirsium amblylepis - Mt. Tamalpais Thistle
  • Cirsium andersonii - Anderson's Thistle, Rose Thistle
  • Cirsium andrewsii - Franciscan Thistle
  • Cirsium araneans - Jeweled Thistle
  • Cirsium arcuum - Powderpuff Thistle
  • Cirsium aridum - Desert Thistle
  • Cirsium arizonicum - Arizona Thistle
  • Cirsium arvense - Creeping Thistle, Field Thistle, Canada Thistle
    • Cirsium arvense var.argenteum
    • Cirsium arvense var. integrifolium
    • Cirsium arvense var. mite
    • Cirsium arvense var. vestitum
  • Cirsium barnebyi - Barneby's Thistle
  • Cirsium brachycephalum
  • Cirsium brevifolium - Palouse Thistle
  • Cirsium brevistylum - Clustered Thistle
  • Cirsium calcareum - Cainville Thistle
  • Cirsium californicum - California Thistle
  • Cirsium callilepis - Fringebract Thistle
  • Cirsium campylon - Mount Hamilton Thistle
  • Cirsium canescens - Platte Thistle, Prairie Thistle
  • Cirsium canovirens - Graygreen Thistle
  • Cirsium canum - Queen Anne's Thistle
  • Cirsium carolinianum - Carolina Thistle, Soft Thistle
  • Cirsium caulescens
  • Cirsium centaureae
  • Cirsium chellyense - Queen Thistle
  • Cirsium chuskaense - Monarch Thistle
  • Cirsium ciliolatum - Ashland Thistle
  • Cirsium clavatum - Lake Thistle
  • Cirsium clokeyi - Charleston Mountain Thistle, Whitespine Thistle
  • Cirsium congdonii - Rosette Thistle
  • Cirsium costaricense
  • Cirsium coulteri - Coulter’s Thistle
  • Cirsium crassicaule - Slough Thistle
  • Cirsium cymosum - Peregrine Thistle
  • Cirsium diacanthum
  • Cirsium discolor - Field Thistle, Pasture Thistle
  • Cirsium dissectum - Meadow Thistle
  • Cirsium douglasii
  • Cirsium drummondii - Dwarf Thistle
  • Cirsium durangense
  • Cirsium eatonii - Eaton's Thistle
  • Cirsium edule - Edible Thistle
  • Cirsium engelmannii - Engelmann Thistle, Engelmann's Thistle
  • Cirsium eriophorum - Woolly Thistle
  • Cirsium erisithales - Yellow Melancholy Thistle
  • Cirsium esculentum
  • Cirsium flodmanii - Flodman Thistle, Flodman's Thistle
  • Cirsium foliosum - Drummond's Thistle, Elk Thistle, Leafy Thistle, Meadow Thistle
  • Cirsium fontinale - Fountain Thistle
  • Cirsium gilense - Gila Thistle
  • Cirsium grahamii - Graham's Thistle
  • Cirsium griseum - Gray Thistle
  • Cirsium hallii - Hall's Thistle
  • Cirsium helenioides - Melancholy Thistle, Common Melancholy Thistle
  • Cirsium heterophyllum - Melancholy Thistle
  • Cirsium hillii - Hill's Thistle
  • Cirsium hookerianum - White Thistle
  • Cirsium horridulum - Yellow Thistle
  • Cirsium humboldtense - Humboldt County Thistle
  • Cirsium hydrophilum - Suisun Thistle
  • Cirsium hypoleucum
  • Cirsium inornatum - Cloudcroft Thistle
  • Cirsium japonicum - Japanese Thistle
  • Cirsium kamtschaticum - Kamchatka Thistle
  • Cirsium lanatum - Hairy Thistle
  • Cirsium lanceolatum
  • Cirsium laterifolium - Porcupine Thistle
  • Cirsium lecontei - Le Conte's Thistle
  • Cirsium leo
  • Cirsium libanoticum
  • Cirsium loncholepis - LaGraciosa Thistle
  • Cirsium longistylum - Longstyle Thistle
  • Cirsium maritimum
  • Cirsium mendocinum - Mendocino Thistle
  • Cirsium mexicanum - Mexican Thistle
  • Cirsium modestum - Lacy Thistle
  • Cirsium mohavense - Mojave Thistle
  • Cirsium murdockii - Murdock's Thistle
  • Cirsium muticum - Swamp Thistle
  • Cirsium navajoense - Navajo Thistle
  • Cirsium neomexicanum - Lavender Thistle, New Mexico Thistle
  • Cirsium nipponicum
  • Cirsium nuttallii - Nuttall's Thistle
  • Cirsium occidentale -Cobweb Thistle
  • Cirsium ochrocentrum - Yellowspine Thistle
  • Cirsium oleraceum - Cabbage thistle
  • Cirsium olivescens - Summer Thistle
  • Cirsium oreophilum - Crow Thistle
  • Cirsium osterhoutii - Osterhout's Thistle
  • Cirsium ownbeyi - Ownbey's Thistle
  • Cirsium pallidum - Pale Thistle
  • Cirsium palustre - Marsh thistle, European Swamp Thistle
  • Cirsium parryi - Parry's Thistle
  • Cirsium pastoris - Snowy Thistle
  • Cirsium peckii - Steen Mountain Thistle
  • Cirsium pendulum
  • Cirsium perplexans - Rocky Mountain Thistle
  • Cirsium pitcheri - Pitcher's Thistle, Sand Dune Thistle
  • Cirsium praeteriens - Palo Alto Thistle, Lost Thistle
  • Cirsium proteanum - Red Thistle
  • Cirsium pulcherrimum - Wyoming Thistle
  • Cirsium pumilum - Pasture Thistle
  • Cirsium pyrenaicum
  • Cirsium quercetorum - Alameda County Thistle
  • Cirsium remotifolium - Fewleaf Thistle
    • Cirsium remotifolium var. remotifolium - Fewleaf Thistle
  • Cirsium repandum - Sandhill Thistle
  • Cirsium rhaphilepis
  • Cirsium rhothophilum - Surf Thistle
  • Cirsium rivulare
  • Cirsium rothrockii - Rothrock's Thistle
  • Cirsium rusbyi - Rusby's Thistle
  • Cirsium rydbergii - Rydberg's Thistle
  • Cirsium scabrum - Rough Thistle
  • Cirsium scapanolepis - Mountain Slope Thistle
  • Cirsium scariosum - Meadow Thistle
  • Cirsium scopulorum - Mountain Thistle
  • Cirsium segetum
  • Cirsium serrulatum
  • Cirsium spinosissimum
  • Cirsium subniveum - Gray Thistle, Jackson Hole Thistle
  • Cirsium tanakae
  • Cirsium texanum - Texas Thistle
  • Cirsium tioganum - Stemless Thistle
  • Cirsium tuberosum - Tuberous Thistle. Similar to Cirsium dissectum (Meadow Thistle).
  • Cirsium turneri - Cliff Thistle
  • Cirsium undulatum - Gray Thistle, Wavy-leaf Thistle, Wavyleaf Thistle
    • Cirsium undulatum var. tracyi - Tracy's Thistle, Wavyleaf Thistle
    • Cirsium undulatum var. undulatum - Wavyleaf Thistle
  • Cirsium validus - Graceful Thistle
  • Cirsium vernale - Spring Thistle
  • Cirsium vinaceum - Sacramento Mountain Thistle, Sacramento Mountains Thistle
  • Cirsium virginense - Virgin Thistle
  • Cirsium virginianum - Virginia Thistle
  • Cirsium vulgare - Bull Thistle, Spear Thistle, Common Thistle, Fuller's Thistle (syn. C. lanceolatum)
  • Cirsium wheeleri - Wheeler's Thistle
  • Cirsium wrightii - Wright's Thistle
  • Cirsium × canalense - Canal Thistle
  • Cirsium × crassum - Thistle
  • Cirsium × erosum - Glory Thistle
  • Cirsium × iowense - Iowa Thistle
  • Cirsium × vancouverense - Vancouver Thistle

Image gallery

Cirsium arizonicum (Arizona Thistle).  
Cirsium canum (Queen Anne's Thistle).  
Bumblebee on thistle flower.  
Cirsium vulgare (Bull Thistle, Common Thistle, or Spear Thistle).  
Cirsium pyrenaicum cut and ready to cook.  


  1. ^ a b "Cirsium". Flora of North America. 
  2. ^ Rose, Francis (1981). The Wild Flower Key. Frederick Warne & Co. pp. 377–380. ISBN 0-7232-2419-6. 
  3. ^ "PLANTS Profile for Cirsium vulgare (bull thistle) USDA PLANTS". USDA Plant Database. USDA. unknown. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 

Further reading

  • Everitt, J.H.; Lonard, R.L., Little, C.R. (2007). Weeds in South Texas and Northern Mexico. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press.  ISBN 0-89672-614-2

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Cirsium — (C. Tourn.), Pflanzengattung aus der Familie der Compositae Cynareae Carduineae, 1. Ordn. 19. Kl. L., mit dachigem Hüllselche, zwitterigen od. gleichehigzweihäusigen, röhrigen Blüthen, freien Staubbeutelträgern, federigem Pappus, an der Basis… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Cirsĭum — Scop. (Kratzdistel), Gattung der Kompositen, ausdauernde oder zweijährige Kräuter, auch Halbsträucher mit meist mehr oder weniger dornigen, oft herablaufenden Blättern, purpurnen oder gelblichen, selten weißlichen Blüten und meist etwas… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Cirsium — Cirsĭum L., Kratzdistel, Pflanzengattg. der Kompositen. C. arvense Scop. (Ackerdistel), lästiges Unkraut.; C. oleracĕum Scop. (Gemüsedistel), gutes Milchfutter; C. eriophŏrum Scop. (Wolldistel), bis mannshoch, Zierpflanze …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Cirsium —   Cirsium …   Wikipedia Español

  • Cirsium — Cirse Cirse …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Cirsium — Kratzdisteln Blütenstand der Acker Kratzdistel Systematik Unterklasse: Asternähnli …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Cirsium — ID 18952 Symbol Key CIRSI Common Name thistle Family Asteraceae Category Dicot Division Magnoliophyta US Nativity N/A US/NA Plant Yes State Distribution AK, AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI,… …   USDA Plant Characteristics

  • Cirsium — noun plume thistles • Syn: ↑genus Cirsium • Hypernyms: ↑asterid dicot genus • Member Holonyms: ↑Compositae, ↑family Compositae, ↑Asteraceae, ↑family Asteraceae, ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • Cirsium — …   Википедия

  • Cirsium — Cịrsium   [von griechisch kirsós »Krampfader« (wegen der heilenden Wirkung)], die Korbblütlergattung Kratzdistel.   …   Universal-Lexikon

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