Spear Thistle

Cirsium vulgare

  1. Wildlife
  2. Wildflowers
  3. Spear Thistle


A widespread and common thistle, the Spear Thistle can be found on disturbed and cultivated ground such as pastures, roadside verges and field edges. 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) that appear from July to October. Its leaves are grey-green and spiny, and its tall stems are winged, spiny and cottony.

Where to find it



When to find it

  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October

How can people help

Some of our most abundant species are often treated as 'weeds' when they appear in the garden. Yet they can be extremely beneficial to wildlife, providing food for nectar-loving insects and shelter for minibeasts. Try leaving wilder areas in your garden and see who comes to visit... To find out more about wildlife-friendly gardening, visit our Wild About Gardens website: a joint initiative with the RHS, there's plenty of facts and tips to get you started.

Species information

Common name
Spear Thistle
Latin name
Cirsium vulgare
Height: up to 1m
Conservation status