Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Bull Thistle - Cirsium vulgare   (Savi) Tenore
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Section 6 » Order Asterales » Family Asteraceae
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Author(Savi) Tenore
DistributionMostly in the Mountains and Piedmont; disjunct to the northeastern Coastal Plain. First collected in 1897 on the grounds of the Biltmore Estate, Buncombe County, then in 1902 on Roan Mountain in Mitchell County.

Native of Europe; in N.A. throughout the U.S. and southern Canada.
AbundanceFairly common to common in the Mountains and Piedmont; rare in the northern Coastal Plain.
HabitatFields, pastures, barnyards, roadsides, railroad margins, clearcuts, disturbed soil.
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting June-November.
IdentificationBull Thistle is an erect and robust plant, typically 3-6 feet tall. The lower leaves have well-developed petioles, but middle and upper stem leaves lack petioles or have short petioles. From the bases of the leaves, wings run vertically down the stem. The heads are large and rose-purple, with extremely long, spiny bracts (that would deter you from touching them). Native Cirsium species do not have leaves decurrent down the stem (i.e., this species has a winged stem).
Taxonomic CommentsOlder references named it as Cirsium lanceolatum (or Carduus lanceolatus).

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State RankSE
Global RankGNR
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