Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Virginia Thistle - Cirsium virginianum   (L.) Michaux
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(L.) Michaux
DistributionCoastal Plain (including the Sandhills), and lowermost Piedmont. Gaps in the Coastal Plain appear to be real, but this plant typically occurs in low numbers.

Coastal Plain, from southern NJ to northern FL.
AbundanceUncommon to infrequent in much of the Coastal Plain, but rare to nearly absent in the northern portions and perhaps the mid-central portions. Rare to very uncommon along the edge of the Piedmont. The NCNHP's State Rank of S2S3 is too conservative, and the website editors suggest S3S4 is more appropriate. The Global Rank should be moved to G4.
HabitatWet to moist Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris) savannas and flatwoods, blackwater streamhead ecotones, moist powerline clearings. The Wake specimen came from a railroad right-of-way between Method and Cary; the Orange County specimen came from open pine woods off Fountain Road.
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting August-October.
IdentificationVirginia Thistle always has white, densely short-hairy, undersides of leaves and one to a few rose-purple heads. It flowers later than other similar-sized and similar-looking thistles. Tall Thistle (C. altissimum) and Field Thistle (C. discolor) also bloom late, but are taller plants, with larger heads and broader leaves. They seldom occur in wetlands, and generally occur to the west of the range of this species in NC.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)None
State RankS2S3 [S3S4]
Global RankG3 [G4]
State Status
US Status
USACE-agcpFACW link
USACE-empFACW link
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B.A. SorrieCarolina Beach SP, late Sept 2017. New HanoverPhoto_natural

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