Cirsium vulgare (Spear Thistle)

Scientific Name

Cirsium vulgare (Savi) Ten.

Common Names

Spear Thistle, Bull Thistle, Common Thistle, Dodder


Cirsium vulgare subsp. vulgare, Cirsium vulgare var. vulgare, Cirsium vulgare f. vulgare, Ascalea lanceata, Ascalea lanceolata, Carduus divaricatus, Carduus firmus, Carduus lanceolatus, Carduus vulgaris, Chamaepeuce firma, Cirsium abyssinicum, Cirsium auriculatum, Cirsium balearicum, Cirsium britannicum, Cirsium dubium, Cirsium firmum, Cirsium fraternum, Cirsium lanceolatum var. vulgare, Cirsium lanigerum, Cirsium leucanicum, Cirsium linkii, Cirsium longespinosum, Cirsium microcephalum, Cirsium mielichhoferi, Cirsium misilmerense, Cirsium nemorale, Cirsium spurium, Cirsium strigosum, Cirsium vulgare, Cnicus firmus, Cnicus lanceolatus, Cnicus misilmerensis, Cnicus strigosus, Cynara lanceata, Eriolepis lanceolata, Lophiolepis dubia

Scientific Classification

Family: Asteraceae
Tribe: Cynareae
Genus: Cirsium


Color: Purple
Bloom Time: Midsummer to late summer


Cirsium vulgare is a tall, biennial or short-lived monocarpic plant that forms a rosette of leaves and a taproot up to 28 inches (70 cm) long in the first year and a flowering stem up to 5 feet (1.5 m) tall in the second (rarely third or fourth) year. The stem is winged, with numerous longitudinal, spine-tipped wings along its full length. Leaves are stoutly spined, grey-green, and deeply lobed. The basal leaves are up to 10 inches (25 cm) long, with smaller leaves on the flower stem's upper part. The leaf lobes are spear-shaped. The inflorescence is up to 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter, pink-purple, with all the florets of similar form. It is the national flower of Scotland.

Cirsium vulgare - Spear Thistle
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USDA hardiness zone 3a to 8b: from −40 °F (−40 °C) to 20 °F (−6.7 °C).

How to Grow and Care

The seeds of Cirsium can be sown in either autumn or after the last frost of spring. They should be sown at a depth of 0.12 inches (3 mm). If grown indoors first, then Cirsium takes about 2 to 3 weeks to germinate at 70 to 75 °F (21 to 24 °C). The seedlings should be planted out in early spring when it is still possible to get a frost with a spacing of about 2 feet (60 cm).

Cirsium thrives in full sun and poor, average, or reach soil that is moist but well-drained. Plants require little care, but deadheading limits their tendency to self-sow. They generally self-sow only in moderation, and unlike weedy thistles, the seedlings are easy to pull up. Use Thistles in mixed beds, herb gardens, or meadow-like plantings. See more at How to Grow and Care for Thistles (Cirsium).


Native throughout most of Europe, western Asia, and northwestern Africa. It is also naturalized in North America, Africa, and Australia.


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