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Cirsium horridulum var. horridulum is often confused with:
Acanthus spinosus Acanthus spinosus
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Cirsium horridulum Cirsium horridulum
Rudbeckia hirta Composite head detail
Viola sororia Viola papilionacea

Cirsium horridulum var. horridulum

Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
SIR-see-um hor-id-YOO-lum hor-id-YOO-lum
Description

A variety of the Bull Thistle, the Common Yellow Thistle is a biennial plant in the Asteraceae (daisy) family that is native to North America on the Coastal Plain from southern Maine to Florida and west to Texas as well as Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and the Bahamas. In North Carolina, it is rarely seen in the mountains, but it is the most often seen thistle in the Piedmont. It differs from the typical variety in having densely wooly hairs on the stems, leaf undersides, and bracts surrounding the flower head. The plant is spiny all over with a tall branching stem that contains large yellowish or red-purple flower heads. The plant often grows 2 to 5-1/2 feet tall (sometimes as high as 8 feet) with clasping leaves that are 8 to 24 inches long. It is often found in disturbed areas, roadsides and woodlands. The genus name comes from the Greek kersion which means thistle.

Bull Thistle prefers sunny, open areas. It grows in all types of soils from moist to dry conditions, but it doesn't do well sitting in salt or brackish water. It grows best in sandy soil.  It is self-pollinated via seed but expect it to take two years until it flowers.

It is a high-value nectar plant for bees and butterflies and the songbirds eat the seeds and use the tufts of the seeds for their nests. The seeds are rich in oil, an important food source for seed-eating birds. It is the host plant for the Little Metalmark butterfly (Calephelis virginiensis), which has three to five broods from March-October, and Painted Lady Butterfly (Vanessa cardui) which have one to three flights in the east from May-October and three to four flights in south Texas from October-April. Flowers are also attractive to hummingbirds. Members of this genus support the following specialized bees: Thistle Long-horned bee Melissodes desponsus, plus Osmia (Helicosmia) chalybea and Osmia (Helicosmia) texana.

Bull thistle is a great option in your meadow garden or naturalized area when looking for native host plants for the Little Metalmark butterfly or the Painted Lady butterfly. Select with care, as this species may spread into areas (such a lawns and flower beds) where thistles are not wanted. Some gardeners object to their spininess.

Quick ID Hints:

  • White densely wooly stems and underside of the leaves.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: No significant problems.

More information on Cirsium horridulum.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#full sun tolerant#biennial#nectar plant#seedheads#specialized bees#NC native#spines#wind dispersed seeds#disturbed areas#pollinator plant#native wildflower#wildflower garden#larval host plant#food source summer#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#Coastal FAC#bird friendly#food source hard mast fruit#butterfly friendly#FACU Piedmont Mountains#bee friendly#Audubon#little metalmark butterfly#painted lady butterfly#weed#spiny#moth friendly#wildlife friendly
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#full sun tolerant#biennial#nectar plant#seedheads#specialized bees#NC native#spines#wind dispersed seeds#disturbed areas#pollinator plant#native wildflower#wildflower garden#larval host plant#food source summer#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#Coastal FAC#bird friendly#food source hard mast fruit#butterfly friendly#FACU Piedmont Mountains#bee friendly#Audubon#little metalmark butterfly#painted lady butterfly#weed#spiny#moth friendly#wildlife friendly
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Cirsium
    Species:
    horridulum
    Family:
    Asteraceae
    Life Cycle:
    Biennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Coastal Plain of North America from Maine to Florida; west to TX
    Distribution:
    AL , AR , CT , DE , FL , GA , LA , MA , MD , ME , MS , NC , NH , NJ , NV , NY , OK , PA , RI , SC , TN , TX , VA, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and the Bahamas
    Wildlife Value:
    The seeds are rich in oil, an important food source for seed-eating birds and use the tufts of the seeds for their nests. It is the host plant for the Little Metalmark (Calephelis virginiensis), which has three to five broods from March-October, and Painted Lady Butterflies (Vanessa cardui) which have one to three flights in the east from May-October and three to four flights in south Texas from October-April. Flowers are also attractive to hummingbirds. Members of the genus Cirsium support the following specialized bees: Melissodes (Heliomelissodes) desponsus, Osmia (Helicosmia) chalybea and Osmia (Helicosmia) texana.
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Wildlife Food Source
    Wildlife Larval Host
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Deer don't bother them.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 2 ft. 0 in. - 5 ft. 6 in.
    Width: 1 ft. 0 in. - 3 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Annual
    Native Plant
    Weed
    Wildflower
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Coarse
    Appendage:
    Prickles
    Spines
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b, 10a, 10b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Cream/Tan
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Achene
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Seeds are produced singly in a flat, brown fruit about 1/10 of an inch long. Seeds produce a feathery pappus (similar to dandelion ‘seeds’) which help disperse the seeds.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Head
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Dome
    Flower Petals:
    Bracts
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    3 inch wide yellow to almost white heads atop multi-branched stems. Its spiny bracts may be purple or white. It flowers from late March to early June.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Prickly
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Rosulate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Lanceolate
    Leaf Margin:
    Lobed
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaf shape changes as the plant ages. Young leaves are elliptical. Older leaves form a basal rosette that can grow 8-24 inches long and are deeply incised and very spiny. The stem leaves are alternate with pronounced stiff spines along the edges, stiff hairs on the upper surface, and softer white hairs below.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Pink
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    Stems of the mature plant are branched and erect, giving it a winged appearance.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Meadow
    Naturalized Area
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Hummingbirds
    Pollinators
    Songbirds
    Specialized Bees
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Salt
    Wet Soil
    Problems:
    Spines/Thorns
    Weedy