Cirsium arvense

Cirsium arvense_ Canada thistle_JM DiTomaso
Photo: Joseph DiTomaso

Common names: Canada thistle

Cirsium arvense (Canada thistle) is a perennial (family Asteraceae) found scattered throughout California, except in the Sonoran and Mojave Deserts and the southern Sierra Nevada. Canada thistle forms dense patches which may crowd out native vegetation. This clump-forming plant reproduces by seed and vegetatively from its extensive root system. Control is difficult because root fragments as small as 1 cm can sprout to form a new plant, and seeds are dispersed by small animals, wind and human activities. Occasional cultivation may increase Canada thistle populations by dispersing root fragments, but control can be achieved with continued cultivation, mowing or hand-cutting.

Cal-IPC Rating: Moderate?

CDFA Rating: -*?


Plant Assessment Form - Information gathered by Cal-IPC on the impacts, rate of spread, and distribution of invasive plants in California. Does not include management information.

Species ID Card

Invasive Species ID Card - To support field identification of early detection species, Cal-IPC has designed a set of Species ID cards that can be downloaded, printed double-sided, and trimmed to size.

Weed Management Notes

  • Management Notes - Information on management techniques and effectiveness from the University of California Cooperative Extension’s Weed Research & Information Center.

Cal-IPC Newsletter Articles

Cal-IPC Symposium Presentations

Presentations are linked where available. Where a presentation is not available, find more information by reading the abstract in the Cal-IPC Symposia Archive.

Other Cirsium arvense Information

  • Bugwood - National database from the Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health at the University of Georgia.
  • CalPhotos - Images of plants taken mostly in California.
  • Calflora - Distribution map and records of this species in California.
  • CalWeedMapper - Distribution map of this species in California with ability to determine regional priorities.
  • EDDMapS - Distribution of this species in North America.
  • Jepson Interchange - Information on this plant's taxonomy, biology, and distribution from UC Berkeley's Jepson Herbarium.
  • USDA PLANTS Database - Information on identification and distribution, with links to websites in individual states.
  • Additional photos

    Cirsium arvense_flower heads_copyright_2009_NealKramer
    Cirsium arvense (Canada thistle) flower heads. Photo: &#169 2009 Neal Kramer
    Cirsium arvense_infestation_copyright_2015_NealKramer
    Cirsium arvense (Canada thistle) infestation. Photo: &#169 2015 Neal Kramer