Bull Thistle

Cirsium vulgare


Bull thistle is an annual or biennial, herbaceous plant. The spiny, spreading, winged stems are up to 7 feet tall.  Leaves are 3-12 inches long, lance-shaped and very hairy.   It has reddish-purple flower heads are 1.5-2 inches in diameter and 1-2 inches long with narrow, spine-tipped bracts (source).


Disturbed areas including pasture and riparian areas.

Location in Nebraska

Listed county noxious weed in Brown and Rock counties of Nebraska.

Pathway of Introduction and Spread

Bull thistle is native to Europe and Eurasian. It is thought to have been introduced to the eastern United States during colonial times and the western United States in the late 1800s. It is currently found in all 50 states (source).


Plants can form dense thickets, displacing other vegetation. The spiny nature of the plant renders it unpalatable to wildlife and livestock and reduces the forage potential of pastures (source).

Photo Credits: 

Loke T. Kok, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Bugwood.org
John Cardina, The Ohio State University, Bugwood.org
Ohio State Weed Lab , The Ohio State University, Bugwood.org
Chris Evans, University of Illinois, Bugwood.org
Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental, Bugwood.org
Pedro Tenorio-Lezama, Bugwood.org
L.L. Berry, Bugwood.org
Rob Routledge, Sault College, Bugwood.org