Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Field Thistle - Cirsium discolor   (Muhlenberg ex Willdenow) Sprengel
Members of Asteraceae:
Members of Cirsium with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Order Asterales » Family Asteraceae
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Author(Muhlenberg ex Willdenow) Sprengel
DistributionMountains, and scattered in the northern and western Piedmont. Possibly absent in the southwestern mountains.

Eastern Canada south to central AL and central TX.
AbundanceFairly common in the Mountains, except rare to absent in the southwestern counties. Rare to locally uncommon in the northern and western Piedmont.
HabitatWooded borders, thickets, pastures, and other early succession and edge habitats.
PhenologyFlowers and fruits August-November.
IdentificationThis is a tall thistle quite similar to Tall Thistle (C. altissimum) in general appearance; it often reaches 4-6 feet tall. The purple-pink heads are numerous and rather large, about 25-35 mm high, as with that species. It can be separated from that species by its deeply dissected leaves, cut almost to the midrib. Swamp Thistle (C. muticum) is also a tall species with dissected leaves, but the spines on the involucre bracts are extremely short or lacking, but these bracts are quite sticky, whereas the bracts are spiny (over 1 mm long) and not sticky in C. discolor.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Pasture Thistle (the common name usually given to C. pumilum)
State RankS3? [S3]
Global RankG5
State Status
US Status
USACE-agcpUPL link
USACE-empUPL link
County Map - click on a county to view source of record.
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B.A. SorrieSame data. Photo_non_NCPhoto_non_NC
B.A. SorrieSkyline Drive, VA, Aug 2014. Photo_non_NCPhoto_non_NC
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