T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Cirsium vulgare (Scotch Thistle)

Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asterales
Family: Asteraceae
Tribe: Cynareae
Genus: Cirsium
Species: C. vulgare
Scientific name: Cirsium vulgare
Common name: Scotch Thistle, Spear thistle.

Cirsium vulgare as an invasive weed like gorse, grows almost anywhere. It is common in pastures, orchards, crops, gardens, lawns and waste areas. It spreads by windborne seed, and establishes itself especially where drought has made the land bare. It is a tall biennial thistle, forming a rosette of leaves in the first year, and a flowering stem 1-2.5 m tall in the second year. The leaves are very spiny, deeply lobed, up to 15-25 cm long (smaller on the upper part of the flower stem). The inflorescence is 2.5-5 cm diameter, pink-purple, with all the florets of similar form (no division into disc and ray florets). The seeds are 5 mm long, with a downy pappus which assists in wind dispersal.

During World War 11 it was eaten as an emergency food. See statement below:
"We used thistles as a food plant during the War years (in England). They were an important part of emergency food. The tender young stems can be peeled and eaten raw and the young leaves can be boiled as a green vegetable (they lose their prickle when cooked). The roots of the first year plant can peeled and eaten raw or added to stews. If you trim young leaves of the prickles, you can throw them into a salad. It has a "button" at the base of the flower which we used to eat raw." 




 

   





   

 
   

The underside of a leaf.