Skip to main content

Cirsium vulgare (Savi) Ten.
Spear Thistle

Fl.Napol. 5:209 (1835)
Conservation Code
Not threatened
Naturalised Status
Alien to Western Australia
Name Status

Spiny biennial, herb, 0.05-1.5(-3) m high. Fl. purple-red, Jan to Dec. Weed of pastures & roadsides in higher rainfall areas.

Amanda Spooner, Descriptive Catalogue, 29 April 1997


IBRA Regions
Avon Wheatbelt, Coolgardie, Esperance Plains, Jarrah Forest, Mallee, Swan Coastal Plain, Warren.
IBRA Subregions
Eastern Mallee, Fitzgerald, Katanning, Merredin, Northern Jarrah Forest, Perth, Recherche, Southern Cross, Southern Jarrah Forest, Warren, Western Mallee.
IMCRA Regions
Leeuwin-Naturaliste, WA South Coast.
Local Government Areas (LGAs)
Albany, Augusta Margaret River, Bayswater, Beverley, Boyup Brook, Bridgetown-Greenbushes, Busselton, Chittering, Cockburn, Cranbrook, Denmark, Dundas, Esperance, Gingin, Gnowangerup, Harvey, Jerramungup, Kellerberrin, Kent, Kulin, Manjimup, Nannup, Narrogin, Perth, Plantagenet, Ravensthorpe, Rockingham, Serpentine-Jarrahdale, Stirling, Swan, Wagin, Wanneroo, Yilgarn, York.

Management Notes (for the Swan NRM Region)

Alternative Names. Common Thistle, Black Thistle, Bull thistle, Scotch Thistle.

General Biology. Growth form. Herb. Life form. Annual. Reproduction. Seed. Dispersal. Wind, water, machinery, animals (particularly birds consuming seed, collecting the silken tassels for nests). Seedbank persistence. Highly variable. Seed in the top 2cm of mostly disappears in one year but may last up to four years. Seed buried at 20cm may last up to 50 years. Fire response. Resprouts after fire. Fire creates conditions suitable for mass germination of soil-stored seed.

Notes. Occurs in subhumid to cool-temperate regions usually on more fertile heavier soils. An aggressive weed in disturbed sites. Can be biennial. Flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female parts), are self-pollinated or cross-pollinated by bees, flies, moths, butterflies and beetles. Intolerant of shade and requires moist soil to establish. Can be dispersed by the wind over a large area, however the pappus can readily detach from seed at maturity, leading the majority of seeds to fall within a short distance of the parent plant. Seedlings and young rosettes are susceptible to drought over summer. After germination a major root system develops rapidly, whilst a rosette is more slowly formed above ground. Peak flowering normally occurs in late spring to early summer. Soil disturbance promotes germination. Seeds mature and may disperse within 7 to 10 days of flowering. Seed viability is high. Germination is stimulated by mositure, disturbance and/or nutrients. The rapid disappearance of seed from the soil surface means that management practises that result in seed burial should be avoided..

Additional information. Origin. Western Asia, Europe, North Africa. History of use/introduction. Food.

Suggested method of management and control. Glyphosate at 0.5% provides effective control of seedling and adult plants, alternatively spot spray Lontrel® 6 ml/10 L (300 ml/ha) + wetting agent, from rosette stage to early flowering. Blanket wipers or wick applicators using 50% glyphosate can provide some selective control. Eliminating seed production is the most effective mechanical control technique. Mowing/slashing at bud or early bloom stage will cause plants to resprout. However, close mowing or cutting twice per season will usually prevent seed production. Read the manufacturers' labels and material safety data sheets before using herbicides. For further information consult the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority to determine the status of permits for your situation or state.

Management Calendar

Calendar Type Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Comments
Germination       Y Y Y Y Y Y O      
Active Growth O O O O O Y Y Y Y Y Y O  
Flowering Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y  
Fruiting Y Y Y Y O O O O O Y Y Y  
Optimum Treatment       O Y Y Y Y Y O      

Legend: Y = Yes, regularly, O = Occasionally, U = Uncertain, referred by others but not confirmed.



  • Botanic Gardens Trust (Undated) Mount Annan Botanic Garden: *Cirsium vulgare. Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water NSW, Sydney, NSW. URL: - Accessed April 2010.
  • Brown, K. & Brooks, K. (2002) Bushland Weeds: A Practical Guide to their Management. Environmental Weeds Action Network, Greenwood.
  • De Jong, T.J. & Klinkhamer, P.G.L. (1988) Seedling establishment of the biennials Cirsium vulgare and Cynoglossum officinale in a sand-dune area: The importance of water for differential survival and srowth. Journal of Ecology, 76 (2): 393-402.
  • Department of Water, Land and Biodiversity Conservation (Undated) Declared Plant Policy, Spear Thistle (Cirsium vulgare). Government of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia. URL: - Accessed April 2010.
  • Doucet, C. & Cavers, P.B. (1996) A persistent seed bank of the bull thistle Cirsium vulgare. Canadian Journal of Botany, 74: 1386-1391.
  • Downs, M.P. & Cavers, P.B. (2000) Effects of wetting and drying on seed germination and seedling emergence of bull thistle, Cirsium vulgare (Savi) Ten. Canadian Journal of Botany, 78 (12): 1545-1551.
  • Hussey, B.M.J., Keighery, G.J., Dodd, J., Lloyd, S.G. & Cousens, R.D. (2007) Western Weeds. A guide to the weeds of Western Australia. 2nd Edition. The Plant Protection Society of Western Australia, Victoria Park.
  • James, T.K & Rahman, A. (2003) Survival of Scotch Thistle Seed Buried at Three Depths in Four New Zealand Soils. New Zealand Plant Protection, 56: 113-117.
  • Klinkhamer, P.G.L. & De Jong, T.J. (1993) Biological flora of the British Isles Cirsium vulgare (Savi) Ten. Journal of Ecology, 81 (176): 177-191.
  • Klinkhamer, P.G.L., De Jong, T.J. & Meelis, E. (1987) Delay of flowering in the 'biennial' Cirsium vulagare: size effects and devernalization. Oikos, 49 (3): 303-308.
  • Michaux, B. (1989) Reproductive and vegetative biology of Cirsium vulgare (Savi) Ten. (Compositae: Cynareae). New Zealand Journal of Botany, 27 (3): 401-414.
  • Moore, C.B. & Moore, J.H. (2002) Herbiguide, the pesticide expert on a disk. Herbiguide, PO Box 44 Albany, Western Australia, 6330.
  • Parsons, W.T. & Cuthbertson, E.G. (2001) Noxious weeds of Australia. 2nd Edition. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood.
  • Plants for a future (Undated) Plant Database. Plants For A Future, England and Wales. URL: - Accessed April 2010.
  • Randall, J.M. (Undated) Invasive Plants of California's Wildland, Cirsium vulgare. California Invasive Plant Council, California. URL: - Accessed April 2010.
  • Van Leeuwen, B.H. (1981) Influence of micro-organisms in the germination of the monocarpic Cirsium vulgare in relation to distrubance. Oecologia, 48: 112-115.
  • Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (2004) Bull Thistle (Cirsium vulgare). Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, Wisconsin. URL: - Accessed April 2010.
  • Zouhar, K. (2002) Cirsium vulgare In: Fire Effects Information System [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). URL: - Accessed April 2010.