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Cirsium vulgare

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Template:Italic title Template:Taxobox Cirsium vulgare (spear thistle) is a species of the genus Cirsium, native throughout most of Europe (north to 66°N, locally 68°N), Western Asia (east to the Yenisei Valley), and northwestern Africa (Atlas Mountains).<ref name=FloraNW>Interactive Flora of NW Europe: Cirsium vulgare</ref><ref name=FloraE>Flora Europaea: Cirsium vulgare</ref><ref>Den Virtuella Floran: Cirsium vulgare (in Swedish, with maps)</ref><ref>Altervista Flora Italiana, Cardo asinino, Cirsium vulgare (Savi) Ten.</ref><ref>Flora of China, 翼蓟 yi ji, Cirsium vulgare (Savi) Tenore</ref> It is also naturalised in North America, Africa, and Australia and is as an invasive weed in some areas.<ref>Flora of North America, Bull or common or spear thistle, gros chardon, chardon vulgaire ou lancéolé, piqueux, Cirsium vulgare (Savi) Tenore</ref><ref>Atlas of Living Australia, Cirsium vulgare (Savi) Ten., Black Thistle</ref><ref>Conservatoire et Jardin botaniques & South African National Biodiversity Institute, African Plant Database, Cirsium vulgare (Savi) Ten.</ref> It is the national flower of Scotland.




It is a tall biennial or short-lived monocarpic thistle, forming a rosette of leaves and a taproot up to 70 cm long in the first year, and a flowering stem 1–1.5 m tall in the second (rarely third or fourth) year. The stem is winged, with numerous longitudinal spine-tipped wings along its full length. The leaves are stoutly spined, grey-green, deeply lobed; the basal leaves up to 15–25 cm long, with smaller leaves on the upper part of the flower stem; the leaf lobes are spear-shaped (from which the English name derives). The inflorescence is 2.5–5 cm diameter, pink-purple, with all the florets of similar form (no division into disc and ray florets). The seeds are 5 mm long, with a downy pappus, which assists in wind dispersal. As in other species of Cirsium (but unlike species in the related genus Carduus), the pappus hairs are feathery with fine side hairs.<ref name=FloraNW/><ref name=blamey>Blamey, M. & Grey-Wilson, C. (1989). Flora of Britain and Northern Europe. ISBN 0-340-40170-2</ref><ref name=Organic>Bond, W., Davies, G., & Turner, R. J. (2007). The biology and non-chemical control Spear Thistle (Cirsium vulgare). 6pp. HDRA the organic organisation. Fulltext</ref>


C. vulgare being pollinated by a carpenter bee in Pennsylvania, where it is naturalised and considered a noxious weed

Spear thistle is often a ruderal species, colonising bare disturbed ground, but also persists well on heavily grazed land as it is unpalatable to most grazing animals.<ref name=Organic/> Nitrogen-rich soils help increase its proliferation.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> The flowers are a rich nectar source used by numerous pollinating insects, including honey bees, wool-carder bees, and many butterflies.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> The seeds are eaten by goldfinches, linnets and greenfinches.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> The seeds are dispersed by wind, mud, water, and possibly also by ants; they do not show significant long-term dormancy, most germinating soon after dispersal and only a few lasting up to four years in the soil seed bank.<ref name=weedaus>Template:Cite web</ref> Seed is also often spread by human activity such as hay bales.<ref name=Organic/>

Cirsium vulgare as a weed

C. vulgare, growing on the bank of the Murrumbidgee River in Wagga Wagga, Australia

Spear thistle is designated an "injurious weed" under the UK Weeds Act 1959,<ref>Defra, UK - Farming - Wildlife and plants Ragwort and injurious weeds</ref> and a noxious weed in Australia<ref name=weedaus/><ref>Template:Cite web</ref><ref name=PIRSA>Template:Cite web</ref> and in nine US states.<ref name=USDA>Template:Cite web</ref> Spread is only by seed, not by root fragments as in the related creeping thistle C. arvense. It is best cleared from land by hoeing and deep cutting of the taproot before seeds mature; regular cultivation also prevents its establishment.<ref name=Organic/>

Other names

Other English names include bull thistle,<ref name=Organic/><ref name=USDA2>United States Department of Agriculture: Taxonomy for Plants</ref> Scots, Scottish, or Scotch thistle, and common thistle.<ref name=USDA2/>


The stems can be peeled and then steamed or boiled. The tap roots can be eaten raw or cooked, but only on young thistles that have not flowered yet.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>



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  • This page was last modified on 18 February 2016, at 08:35.
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