"Taprooted annual, biennial, or short-lived perennial herb that flowers once, or multi-flower perennial herb with taprooted rosettes arising from runner roots or from simple to branched caudex; glabrous to cobwebby or ± densely tomentose with long, fine, slender hairs, sometimes with thicker multicellular, jointed hairs that often appear crinkled, shining, iridescent when dry. Stem: generally erect. Leaf: basal and proximal cauline generally tapered or ± wing-petioled, generally wavy-margined, dentate to generally pinnately lobed and ± dentate, lobes and teeth spine-tipped, generally spiny-ciliate, faces glabrous to tomentose, especially abaxially; distal generally sessile, ± reduced. Inflorescence: heads discoid, 1–many, center head of cluster generally larger, generally erect; involucre ± cylindric to ovoid, spheric, or bell-shaped, persistent when dry; phyllaries many, graduated in 5–20 series, generally entire (spiny-ciliate or with irregularly toothed or cut scarious margin or distal appendage), outer and middle generally spine-tipped, in some species midrib with sticky-resinous ridge (milky when fresh, dark when dry, occasionally very narrow); inner phyllaries generally narrow, flat, tips straight or twisted; receptacle flat, long-bristly, epaleate. Flower: ± many, generally bisexual (unisexual in Cirsium arvense); corolla ± radial, white to red or purple, tube long, narrowly cylindric, throat cylindric, lobes linear; anther tube colored same as corolla or not, anther base sharply sagittate, tip linear or oblong; style generally exserted, tip cylindric, branches very short. Fruit: ovoid, thick or ± compressed, straw-colored or tan to dark brown, glabrous; attachment scar slightly angled; pappus bristles many, ± flattened proximally, plumose, weakly fused at base, often deciduous in ring, white to brown.
± 200 species: North America, Eurasia. (Greek: thistle) [Keil 2006 FNANM 19:95–164] Taxa difficult, variable, incompletely differentiated, hybridize. Exceptional white-flowered plants occur in most taxa with pigmented corollas; these generally not treated in key.
Unabridged references: [Kelch & Baldwin 2003 Molec Ecol 12:141–151]
Unabridged note: Native thistles are part of an apparently actively evolving group of species with many geog and ecological races and growth forms. Morphologically divergent species often are able to hybridize; unrecognized hybridization or intergradation often complicates identification. Stature, growth form, and proportions are subject to environmental influence." [Jepson]

Local Species;

  1. Cirsium arvense - Canada thistle [E-flora][PCBC][TSFTK]
  2. Cirsium brevistylum - Short-styled thistle [E-flora][PCBC]
  3. Cirsium edule var macounii - Edible thistle [E-flora][PCBC][TSFTK]
  4. Cirsium palustre - Marsh thistle [E-flora]
  5. Cirsium vulgare - Bull thistle [E-flora][PCBC][TSFTK]



Short-Styled Thistle - Cirsium brevistylum

Habitat / Range
Moist meadows and open forests in the lowland and montane zones; frequent in coastal and extreme S BC; S to ID, MT and CA. [IFBC-E-flora]

Origin Status: Native [E-flora]


Edible Uses

Other Uses

Cirsium edule var macounii - Edible thistle

Family: Aster [E-flora]

Habitat / Range
Moist to mesic meadows, avalanche tracks and open forests in the upper montane to lower alpine zones; frequent throughout BC; S to N OR. [IFBC-E-flora]

Origin Status: Native [E-flora]

Cirsium edule is a PERENNIAL growing to 2 m (6ft 7in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 7. It is in flower from Jul to August, and the seeds ripen from Aug to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, flies, lepidoptera, beetles, self.The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil. [PFAF]

Cirsium edule var. macounii [E-flora]

Edible Uses

Other Uses

"An easily grown plant, succeeding in any ordinary garden soil in a sunny position[200]. A monocarpic species, it grows for a number of years without flowering but then dies after flowering[60]."[PFAF]

"Seed - sow early spring or autumn in situ. Germination usually takes place within 2 - 8 weeks at 20°c."[PFAF]

Cirsium palustre - Marsh thistle


Habitat/Range: Moist meadows and forest openings in the lowland zone; infrequent throughout BC south of 55degreeN; introduced from Europe. [IFBC-E-flora]

Edible Uses

Other Uses

Cirsium Sp. Uses

Species mentioned: Cirsium Spp.[Harrington][Nyerges]


As far as we know any species of thistle can be used as food if taken in the right stage and suitably prepared. [Harrington]

When handling or gathering parts of the thistle plant, protect your hands from the sharp spines with something, such as a pair of gloves, a rag, or a brown paper bag. [Nyerges]

Edible Uses

Other Uses

Medicinal Uses


Cultivation & Propagation


Page last modified on Sunday, September 8, 2019 1:58 PM