BULL THISTLE
File Size: 71 KB
 
Cirsium vulgare   (Savi ) Ten.
Quivera National Wildlife Refuge, Stafford County, Kansas
Biennial
Height: 20-80 inches
Family: Asteraceae - Sunflower Family
Flowering Period:   July, August, September
Stems: Erect, stout, much branched, leafy, green or brownish, furrowed, spreading coarse-hairy or covered with cob-web like hairs; upper portion conspicuously spiny-winged.
Leaves: Alternate, simple, green, wavy or crinkled, deeply cleft in pinnate fashion; upper surface short coarse-hairy with yellowish prickles; lower surface pale green or grayish woolly along the veins; young leaves elliptic to obovate, initially unlobed but soon shallowly to pinnately lobed; margins with yellowish spines 1/25 to 1/5 inch long; rosette leaves oblanceolate to narrowly elliptic, 5 to 20 inches long, 1.2 to 6 inches wide, deeply pinnately lobed; lobes in 4-6 pairs, frequently 2-cleft; segments lanceolate to triangular; tips sharp-pointed or tapering to long points, tipped with stout spine to 2/5 inch long, yellow; stem leaves similar but progressively smaller; lobes often linear-lanceolate.
Inflorescences: Heads, several, terminal and solitary on branches, often appearing clustered, urn-shaped, .8 to 1.6 inches tall, .8 to 2 inches in diameter.
Flowers: Bracts in 5-8 rows, narrowly lanceolate, .25 to 1.2 inches long,, less than 1/12 inch wide, progressively longer and narrower from outer to inner, cobwebby, spine-tipped, lacking conspicuous ridge on back; ray florets absent; disk florets numerous, 1 to 1.4 inches long, dark purple or rose to pinkish-purple.
Fruits: Achene, oblong, 1/8 to 1/6 inch long, flattened, white or pale yellow with dark brown streaks, tipped with white or brownish feather-like bristles, enclosing small seed.
Habitat: Waste areas, pastures, roadsides, old fields, gardens.
Distribution: Throughout Kansas.
Origin: Native of Eurasia, now naturalized.
Reproduction: By seed.
Uses: Native Americans drank a warm tea of the roots to aid digestion and used the steam to treat muscle stiffness and rheumatism. A tea of the leaves was taken for neuralgia. The roots were also used to treat stomach cramps and were eaten as a food source. The fresh flowers were chewed to cover up the taste of medicines and the achene bristles were used as the tail for blow darts.
Comments: Bull thistle is an aggressive weed officially listed as a noxious weed in Kansas.

Bull thistle heads and achene bristles
140 KB
Quivera National Wildlife Refuge, Stafford County, Kansas
Bull thistle
83 KB
Quivera National Wildlife Refuge, Stafford County, Kansas
Bull thistle inflorescence bracts and florets
95 KB
Quivera National Wildlife Refuge, Stafford County, Kansas
Bull thistle leaves
141 KB
Quivera National Wildlife Refuge, Stafford County, Kansas
Bull thistle
86 KB
Scott Lake, Scott County, Kansas
Bull thistle
149 KB
Scott Lake, Scott County, Kansas