Created 9-Jan-18
Modified 9-Jan-18
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Cirsium vulgare

Scotch Thistle

New Zealand Status: Introduced
Conservation Status: Unknown

Cirsium vulgare is erect with branched flowering stems up to 1.5 m tall growing from a large rosette of leaves flat on the ground that has a large taproot. The dark green leaves, up to 300mm long and 100mm wide have prickly hairs on the upper surface and white cottony hair on the lower surface. It is the only thistle species in New Zealand that has spines on the surface of leaves as well as around the leaf margins.

Flowering is from November to March. The large reddish-purple flower heads grow solitary or in clusters of two or three heads. Outer bracts of the flower heads are slightly hairy with strong, sharp spines up to 4mm long. Seeds each have a feathery pappus (thistledown) to assist dispersal by wind.

Cirsium vulgare is considered to be an invasive weed in New Zealand. It occurs in disturbed forest and forest clearings, on wasteland, along roadsides, as well as in pastures, gardens and cultivated land.
Cirsium vulgare, Scotch Thistle Flower