*Cirsium vulgare

Family Asteraceae

Spear Thistle

Erect annual or biennial  herb to 1.5 m high with radical and cauline leaves; long well developed taproot. Rosette leaves up to 35 cm long, older leaves deeply lobed and armed with spines, taproot branched, fleshy.

Flowers: Pink – purple, October - January. Self-pollinated or cross-pollinated.

Fruit: Achene 3-6 mm long, with pappus of feather like bristles 2-3 cm long, mature October- April. Up to 200 flower heads and 8000 seeds counted on individual plants.

Seed: Wind-dispersed.

Gallery images: seed, seedling, rootstock, resprout


  • Native of North Africa, Europe and Asia.
  • Exotic weed species, naturalised in woodland and disturbed areas, such as roadsides, waste lands and pastures
  • Minor weed species in open grassy areas at the Australian Botanic Garden, possibly indicating higher nutrient soils resulting from past agricultural uses.
  • Resprouts after fire.

Useful References

  • Parsons, W.T. & Cuthbertson, E.G. (1992, 2001) Noxious Weeds of Australia (Inkata Press: Melbourne)

Asterisk * indicates exotic species naturalised at the Australian Botanic Garden.


Ecology of Cumberland Plain Woodland

Cirsium vulgare plant

Cirsium vulgare flower

Cirsium vulgare fruit