Dwarf thistle

Cirsium acaule

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  3. Dwarf thistle


This thistle is found on chalk grassland and benefits from grazing. It’s a low-growing thistle, the leaves spread out in a rosette on the ground.

How to identify

These thistles generally have just one flower head, with red/purple florets, and a rosette of hairy, spiny leaves.

Where to find it

In England from Yorkshire south, not found in the far southwest


When to find it

  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September

How can people help

Dwarf thistle is found on chalk downland - patchworks of chalk grassland, heath, scrub and ponds found on chalk hills. Areas of rare and unique wildlife, chalk grasslands, in particular, have been likened to a 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 and downland nature reserves for the benefit of the rare wildlife they hold. You can help too: volunteer for your local Wildlife Trust and you could be involved in everything from scrub-cutting to stockwatching.

Species information

Common name
Dwarf thistle
Latin name
Cirsium acaule
Up to 15cm tall
Conservation status