Bull Thistle, Boar Thistle, Common Thistle, Dodder, Spear Thistle
Synonyms of Cirsium vulgare: Carduus vulgaris Savi, Cirsium vulgare var. album Mozaff.
Cirsium vulgare (Savi) Ten. is the correct and accepted scientific name for this species of Thistle. It was named and described as such by Michele Tenore in Flora Napolitana in 1835. It was first named Carduus vulgaris by C. Gaetano Savi and described in Flora Pisana in 1798.
Accepted infraspecific names of Cirsium vulgare: Cirsium vulgare var. litorale P.D.Sell, Cirsium vulgare var. vulgare.
The genus, Cirsium Mill., was named and described by Philip Miller in the 4th edition of The Gardeners Dictionary 1754. Plants of the World Online lists 451 accepted species in the Cirsium genus (as of 2-9-20 when I am writing this page). That number could change.
As you can see by the above distribution map from Plants of the World Online, Cirsium vulgare is quite widespread. Areas in green are where it is a native species and purple is where it has been introduced. It is possible the species is even more widespread.
Be sure to check out the links at the bottom of the page for further reading and proper ID. They were written by the experts, which I am not.
Cirsium vulgare isn’t a real problem here on the farm because we have kept it in check. I moved back here on the family farm in 2013 and dad said he always just dug them up and on occasion mowed them off. I have sprayed, dug, and mowed from 2013 through 2020 and there are still a few and there probably always will be. Their seed is viable in the ground and can come up for 30-50 years (depending on which website you read). My grandparents lived on this farm, then my parents, and now me. My grandpa and my dad dug, mowed, and sprayed them and now I am doing it… If you don’t, they will become quite bad… Luckily they are only growing in the front pasture and around the pond in the front pasture and a few here and there in the yard. Rarely have I seen this species anywhere else here.
Spraying and digging are both effective ways to control the Bull Thistle. If spraying is not your thing, you can dig into the root a couple of inches below the soil which will kill the plant. It is best to dig or spray even the smallest plants. The first year they will appear as a rosette and the next year they will grow taller and flower. Some plants will grow tall early while others will continue to grow throughout the summer. It is a continual work in progress. The old saying, “if you can’t beat them, join them” does not apply.
I am not going to go into a lot of detail about the descriptions of the leaves, stems, etc. because they are fairly unmistakable. In layman’s terms, their leaves are fleshy, dark green, kind of hairy, with sharp spines on the margins and leaf tips. The stems are also hairy and spiny.
I know it will sound weird, but I think Thistles are interesting plants. Well, I also like growing a lot of cactus. The plant in the above photo was growing behind one of the sheds and I left it soi could get photos of the flowers. I had been working on a friends farm in 2019 spraying and digging THOUSANDS of Musk Thistles (Carduus nutans) and then his Bull Thistles pretty much all summer. After that, I sprayed this plant before it flowered. There were others in the pasture which I also got rid of before flowering… I was sure I took photos of their flowers previously, but apparently not. SO, in 2020, I will take photos. GEEZ!
I have enjoyed photographing and learning about the many wildflowers growing on the farm and other areas. I have grown over 500 different plants and most have pages listed on the right side of the blog. I am not an expert, botanist, or horticulturalist. I just like growing, photographing and writing about my experience. I rely on several websites for ID and a horticulturalist I contact if I cannot figure them out. Wildflowers can be somewhat variable from location to location, so sometimes it gets a bit confusing. If you see I have made an error, please let me know so I can correct what I have written.
I hope you found this page useful and be sure to check the links below for more information. They were written by experts and provide much more information. If you can, I would appreciate it if you would click on the “Like” below and leave a comment. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. You can also send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would enjoy hearing from you.