Carline Thistle

Carlina vulgaris

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  3. Carline Thistle


The Carline Thistle is a spiny biennial plant that can be found on dry, chalk grassland. Its distinctive brown and golden flower heads look like a daisy that is dying or a thistle that's gone to seed, but they are, in fact, in full flower. They can be seen from July to September, although the dead heads persist for much longer, often into the following spring.

How to identify

The Carline Thistle has clusters of flower heads that look like dead or dying daisies. They are actually composite flower heads consisting of brown florets (tiny flowers) surrounded by a fringe of golden bracts (leaf-like structures). In the bright sunshine, they glisten silver and gold. Carline Thistles have oblong leaves with wavy margins and spiny lobes that hug their stems

Where to find it

Scattered across the UK, but predominantly grows in England and Wales.


When to find it

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

How can people help

Areas of rare and unique wildlife, chalk grasslands have been likened to rainforest for the diversity of species they hold. But they are being lost at an alarming rate due to changes in land use causing the decline of grazing: it's estimated that we've lost 80% of our chalk grassland over the last 60 years. The Wildlife Trusts manage many grassland nature reserves for the benefit of the rare wildlife they hold by using traditional management methods such as autumn grazing and scrub clearance. You can help too: volunteer for your local Wildlife Trust and you could be involved in everything from flower surveys to stockwatching.

Species information

Common name
Carline Thistle
Latin name
Carlina vulgaris
Height: up to 60cm
Conservation status