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

Cirsium vulgare (Savi) Ten.
bull thistle
Asteraceae (Aster family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Bryan Kelly-McArthur  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #76679)

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Distribution of Cirsium vulgare
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Species Information

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Biennial herb from a fibrous root, 0.3-2.0 m tall; stems erect, branched, the branches spreading and ascending, stiff, ridged, sparsely to densely hairy, conspicuously spiny-winged at the base of the leaves.
Basal and stem leaves broadly lanceolate, deeply lobed, 3.5-10 cm long, glabrous and strongly spiny-hairy above, nearly glabrous to sparsely white- or grey-woolly below, bases clasping, winged and descending down the stems, marginally spiny, the lobes and tips with stout spines 5-10 mm long; upper stem leaves reduced.
Heads several to many, solitary at the end of the branches; disk flowers purple, rarely white; involucres egg-shaped to more or less rounded, 2.5-4 cm tall; involucral bracts lanceolate to linear-lanceolate, the outer and middle ones with a strong, yellow, 2-4 mm long spine, hairy on the margins, the midrib woody, the inner bracts longer, with a stiff point.
Achenes glossy, light brown with parallel lines; pappus of white, feathery bristles.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

Habitat / Range

Mesic to dry roadsides, fields, pastures and disturbed areas in the lowland, steppe and montane zone; common in S BC, infrequent in N BC; introduced from Eurasia.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Cirsium vulgare

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) 2 615 2100
Slope Gradient (%) 0 15 88
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
22 192 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
1 4 8
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: BG(5), CDF(7), CWH(130), ESSF(7), ICH(14), IDF(72), MS(14), PP(9), SBS(11)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is not evaluated, unknown or variable.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Carduus lanceolatus L.
Carduus vulgaris Savi
Cirsium lanceolatum (L.) Scop., non Hill
Cirsium lanceolatum var. hypoleucum DC.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References