Bull Thistle

Bull ThistleThis large family (Asteraceae), commonly called the Aster Family, consists of 1,314 genera and 21,000 species of herbs, shrubs, climbers and a few trees is found chiefly in temperate and subtropical regions.  The plants are of value to man as ornamentals; a few are insecticides and fish poisons.Although some consider the mature plant toxic, it has been reported that the young leaves of the Bull Thistle, with the spines removed, can be used in salad and as cooked greens; the pithy young stems can be eaten raw or cooked and prepared as a vegetable. The raw or cooked roots of the first-year plants are excellent survival food.According to Scottish legend, the Norsemen invaded Scotland during the reign of Malcom I (938-958 A. D.) and surrounded the Staines Castle.  One night the Norsemen took off their footgear to wade the moat, only to find it dry and filled with a thistle in this family, Scotch Thistle (Onopordon acanthium).  Their painful yells and curses roused the Scottish garrison and the Norsemen were soundly defeated.  In Memory of this victory the thistle because the flower emblem of Scotland.   In 1687 James VII founded the Most Noble and Most Ancient Order of the Thistle of Scotland.



Cirsium vulgare




Naturalized native of Eurasia




1.5 to 5 feet


September to November


Found throughout North America ~ Statewide in NJ


Late June to November


Stem prickly-winged.  Leaves copiously spreading-hirsute, strongly spiny at top, prickly, with the larger ones lobed.  Flowers rose- purple resembling a “shaving brush” in heads