Cirsium vulgare

Cirsium vulgare_bull thistle_flowering stem_JM DiTomaso
Photo: Joseph DiTomaso

Synonyms: Carduus lanceolatus, Cirsium lanceolatum

Common names: bull thistle

Cirsium vulgare (bull thistle) is a perennial or biennial forb (family Asteraceae) Bull thistle is widespread in California and is most common in coastal grasslands, along edges of fresh and brackish marshes, and in meadows and mesic forest openings in the mountains below 7,000 feet (2,120 m). It is most troublesome in recently or repeatedly disturbed areas such as pastures, overgrazed rangelands, recently burned forests and forest clearcuts, and along roads, ditches, and fences. Besides out-competing native plant species for water, nutrients, and space, the presence of bull thistle in hay decreases feeding value and lowers market price.

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.

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 vulgare Information

  • 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 vulgare_flower head_copyright_2008_NealKramer
    Cirsium vulgare (bull thistle) flower head. Photo: &#169 2008 Neal Kramer
    Cirsium vulgare_leaf_copyright2001_CDFA
    Cirsium vulgare (bull thistle) leaf. Photo: &#169 2001 CDFA
    Cirsium vulgare_leaves and stem_Keir Morse
    Cirsium vulgare (bull thistle) leaves and stem. Photo: Keir Morse
    Cirsium vulgare (bull thistle) rosette. Photo: Zoya Akulova
    Cirsium vulgare_seed_ZoyaAkulova
    Cirsium vulgare (bull thistle) seed. Photo: Zoya Akulova