Plant Image
Flower head

Yavapai County Native & Naturalized Plants

Cirsium vulgare - bull thistle

Synonyms: Carduus lanceolatus, C. vulgaris, Cirsium lanceolatum var. hypoleucum, C. lanceolatum
Plant Form: Forb or Subshrub

Family: Asteraceae

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Max Licher @, Usage Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA)
Forb Plant Description

Origin: Introduced   Life Cycle: Biennial
General Desc: Biennial with prickly, winged stems; rosette leaves elliptic, coarsely toothed; stem leaves deeply lobed, taper to a point, minutely hairy above, densely matted below, prickles stout; flower heads 1 or few, at ends of short, prickly-winged branches.
Identification notes: Biennial, taprooted; 1 to many erect or ascending, spiny, winged stems, wings almost the full length of distance between leaves; leaf blades long, lance-shaped, very spiny; purple flowers develop at the apex and have narrow spiny, yellow-tipped bracts.
Height: 2 to 4 feet


Habitat Description: Invasive of disturbed sites, pastures, meadows, forest openings, roadsides.
Plant Communities: Pinyon Juniper Woodland, Montane Conifer Forest, Riparian, Disturbed Areas
Elevation: 5000 - 7000 feet

Flower Characteristics

Color: Purple, rarely white     Shape: Daisy or dandelion-like not in clusters     Tubular: N     Flowering Period: Aug - Oct
Description: The purple flower heads are 1-1/2 to 2 inches in diameter and 1 to 2 inches long with narrow, spine-tipped bracts in 10 to 12 overlapping series; bracts not sticky on their outer surface.

Leaf and Stem Characteristics

Leaf Color: Green above, gray below     Leaf Type: Simple     Leaf Shape: Pinnatifid     Leaf Margin: Lobed     Leaf Attachment: Basal and alternate     Leaves Clasp: Y
Hairs: Leaves and stems     Spines: Y
Leaf Description: Leaves are 3 to 12 inches long, lance-shaped, coarsely lobed and covered in sharp spines.

Fruit and Seed Characteristics

Fruit Color: Light brown with dark streaks   
Fruit Type: Achene
Fruit Notes: Seed-like fruit, about 1/5 inch long, elongated and tipped with numerous bristles.
Seed Notes: Flower heads produce hundreds of seeds.

  Arizona Cooperative Extension
Yavapai County
840 Rodeo Dr #C
Prescott, AZ 86305
(928) 445-6590
Version 8.0  
Last Updated: Dec 13, 2022
Content Questions/Comments: Email Matt Halldorson  
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