Cirsium vulgare

Spear Thistle

Botanical description: Bull thistle is a relatively rare find along urban peregrinations, often found as an individual specimen, rather than growing in a colony. Cirsium vulgare has striking good looks with an upright architectural attitude, dramatic prickly blades, and large, prickle-protected violet blooms—frequented by goldfinches. Grass-like plants and small flowers dominate the flora of postindustrial sites, so the height (to four feet), texture and drama of the bull thistle are all the more remarkable. This drama ends after the second year in the plant’s life cycle, as it is monocarpic—once it has flowered, it will die. However, each bloom creates between 100-300 seeds, ensuring the potential for future generations of plants. Seeds are wind dispersed, carried by the feathery pappus, which resembles the “powder-puff” of a dandelion, typical of their plant family, Asteraceae. Bull thistle develops a basal rosette of leaves in the first year of growth, protected from predation by foliar spines. A fleshy taproot develops, enabling the plant to grow on many types of habitats, while preferring nutrient rich, evenly moist soil. Only in the second year of growth will the thistle develop a flower stalk, heavily clad in prickles, continuing the biennial cycle.



Place of Origin

Eurasia and North Africa