Spear thistle

Spear Thistle

©Chris Gomersall/2020VISION

Spear Thistle


Spear thistle

Scientific name: Cirsium vulgare
A common plant of disturbed ground like roadside verges and field edges, the spear thistle has purple, fluffy flower heads that appear in summer. Its flowers attract insects and its seeds feed birds.

Species information


Height: up to 1m

Conservation status


When to see

July to October


A widespread and common thistle, the spear thistle can be found on disturbed and cultivated ground, such as pastures, roadside verges and field edges from July to October. Its classic thistle appearance - purple, fluffy-looking flowers sitting atop a spiny ball - may well have given rise to the Scottish national emblem. As with other thistles, it can become a nuisance on agricultural land and these species are often considered to be weeds.

How to identify

The spear thistle has flower heads with bright pink florets (tiny flowers) and a ball of spiny bracts (leaf-like structures). Its leaves are grey-green and spiny, and its tall stems are winged, spiny and cottony.



Did you know?

Despite its 'weed' status, the seeds of the Spear thistle are attractive to birds like goldfinches and the flowers are a nectar source for butterflies like the small copper.