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Cirsium pumilum is often confused with:
Cirsium muticum Cirsium muticum
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Cirsium Cirsium canovirens
Cirsium horridulum Cirsium horridulum
Cirsium muticum Cirsium muticum

Pasture Thistle Cirsium pumilum

Other Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Carduus pumilus
  • Cirsium odoratum
Phonetic Spelling
SIR-see-um POO-mil-um
Description

Pasture Thistle is a native biennial or monocarpic perennial herb in the Asteraceae (daisy) family found in the northeastern and north central United States and the Canadian Province of Ontario. It is found in the Piedmont of NC. Its name comes from the Greek kersion which means thistle. The plant grows 1 to 3 feet tall with clasping leaves that are 12 inches long with slender stout spines. The fragrant disc flowers bloom in purple, pink, or white and attract butterflies, bees and birds. It is found in roadsides, disturbed areas, meadows and fields. The stems and leaves have prickles. The plant lives 2 or 3 years, then blooms, sets seed and dies. 

It is drought tolerant and prefers full sun and dry, well-drained soils.  This thistle has fewer spines than some and is much easier to control than other thistles.

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. 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.

Pasture thistle is a great option in your meadow garden or naturalized area when looking for native host plants for the Swamp Metalmark butterfly or the Painted Lady butterfly. It is a short-lived thistle with flowers that are showy and fragrant. It is a non-invasive native.

Quick ID Hints:

  • White densely wooly underside of the leaves.

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

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • var. hillii
var. hillii
Tags:
#purple#hummingbird friendly#white flowers#purple flowers#pink flowers#nectar plant#seedheads#specialized bees#aggressive#NC native#scarlet flowers#prickly#wind dispersed seeds#disturbed areas#wildflower garden#naturalized area#larval host plant#bird friendly#butterfly friendly#bee friendly#weed#full sun intolerant#moth friendly#wildlife friendly
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • var. hillii
var. hillii
Tags:
#purple#hummingbird friendly#white flowers#purple flowers#pink flowers#nectar plant#seedheads#specialized bees#aggressive#NC native#scarlet flowers#prickly#wind dispersed seeds#disturbed areas#wildflower garden#naturalized area#larval host plant#bird friendly#butterfly friendly#bee friendly#weed#full sun intolerant#moth friendly#wildlife friendly
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Cirsium
    Species:
    pumilum
    Family:
    Asteraceae
    Life Cycle:
    Biennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Eastern and Central US and Ontario, Canada
    Distribution:
    CT, DC, DE, MA, MD, ME, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, SC, VA, VT, WV, Ontario
    Wildlife Value:
    Members of the genus Cirsium support the following specialized bees: Melissodes (Heliomelissodes) desponsus, Osmia (Helicosmia) chalybea and Osmia (Helicosmia) texana. Thistles attract butteflies and birds. Thistle seed is a favorite of finches.
    Play Value:
    Wildlife Food Source
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Drought tolerant, and deer tolerant.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Annual
    Herbaceous Perennial
    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)
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    NC Region:
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Cream/Tan
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Achene
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Small seeds which produce a feathery pappus (similar to dandelion ‘seeds’) which help disperse the seeds.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Pink
    Purple/Lavender
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Head
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Dome
    Flower Petals:
    Bracts
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    Dense inflorescent 2-3 inches across with 20-50 disc florets and no petals. Fragrant
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Prickly
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Rosulate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Oblong
    Leaf Margin:
    Lobed
    Undulate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Initial leaves form a basal rosette. Older leaves are deeply lobed with wavy edges, oblong to elliptic, up to 6 to 8 inches long. Undersides of leaves are densely wooly with a whitish appearance. Leaf edges have short, dense spines.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Surface:
    Hairy (pubescent)
    Stem Description:
    Stout stems with spines and densely wooly.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Meadow
    Naturalized Area
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Hummingbirds
    Songbirds
    Specialized Bees
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Dry Soil
    Problems:
    Spines/Thorns