E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Cirsium edule Nutt.
edible thistle
Asteraceae (Aster family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants
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Distribution of Cirsium edule
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Cirsium edule var. macounii

Species Information

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Stout biennial or perennial herb from a taproot; stems ribbed, sparsely to moderately hairy, simple to branched, 0.3-2.0 m tall.
Basal leaves broadly lanceolate, up to 40 cm long, green to dark green above, glabrous or sparsely hairy above and below, irregularly lobed or coarsely toothed, usually more than 1/2 the width of the leaf blade, margins of the segments with 3-5 slender, yellow spines; stem leaves narrowly elliptic or oblong, 10-16 cm long, alternate, otherwise similar to the basal, uppermost reduced.
Heads solitary to many in small clusters at the ends of branches, nodding when young; involucres egg-shaped, 2-4 cm tall; involucral bracts linear-lanceolate, moderately to densely cobwebby, not much graduated, outer ones tapering to a prominent 1-2 mm spine, innermost unarmed; disk flowers purplish-pink, 12-24 mm long; styles exceeding the flowers by 3-8 mm.
Achenes prismatic, several-nerved, glabrous, purplish-black; pappus buff or whitish, feathery bristles.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

Habitat / Range

Moist to mesic meadows, avalanche tracks and open forests in the upper montane to lower alpine zones; frequent throughout BC; S to N OR.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Cirsium edule

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 15 1083 2385
Slope Gradient (%) -5 22 90
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
60 198 338
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
0 4 7
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: AT(1), BAFA(1), CDF(1), CMA(1), CWH(16), ESSF(24), ICH(6), IDF(17), MH(1), MS(10), PP(7), SBPS(3), SBS(1)

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