Australia > All Weeds > Perennial Thistle

Perennial Thistle

Cirsium arvense

Origin: Native of Europe, northern Africa and Asia.


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Bundanon, NSW

Alternative Name(s): Californian Thistle, Canada Thistle, Creeping Thistle

Family: Asteraceae.

Known Hazards: None known.

Habitat: Arable land, roadsides etc, a common weed of cultivated land.

Edibility Rating: 2 (1-5)

Medicinal Rating: 2 (1-5)

Physical Characteristics: Flowers: Many small flowers (florets) in heads 1.5–2.5 cm long; petals 12–18 mm long; female flowers scented. Flowers summer and autumn.The flowers are hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, flies, Lepidoptera (Moths & Butterflies), beetles. The plant is self-fertile.Erect perennial thistle to 1 (rarely to 1.5) m high. Stems ridged, smooth, hairless to slightly hairy. Leaves lanceolate in outline, upper surface dark green and variably hairy, lower surface white woolly to hairless; basal leaves in a rosette, leaves to 15 cm long and to 4 cm wide, margins wavy to toothed, narrowing to the base; stem leaves to 7 cm long, lobed, not on a stalk and base continuing down stems for a short distance. Seeds light brown to olive, smooth, finely longitudinally grooved.

Distinguishing features: Distinguished by creeping roots; spiny leaves; flowerheads 0.7–2.0 cm wide in panicles; florets all tubular, mauve, arising from a receptacle with bristle-like scales, male and female flowers on separate plants; bracts around heads soft, tips gradually pointed to short spined; seeds 2.5–4 mm long, compressed, topped by bristles 20–25 mm long.

Dispersal: Spreads by seed and creeping roots.

Edible Uses

Root of first year plants - raw or cooked. Nutritious but rather bland, they are best used in a mixture with other vegetables. The root is likely to be rich in inulin, a starch that cannot be digested by humans. This starch thus passes straight through the digestive system and, in some people, ferments to produce flatulence. Stems - they are peeled and cooked like asparagus or rhubarb. Leaves - raw or cooked. A fairly bland flavour, but the prickles need to be removed before the leaves can be eaten - not only is this rather fiddly but very little edible leaf remains. The leaves are also used to coagulate plant milks etc.

Medicinal Uses

Antiphlogistic; Astringent; Diuretic; Emetic; Emmenagogue; Hepatic; Tonic. The root is tonic, diuretic, astringent, antiphlogistic and hepatic. It has been chewed as a remedy for toothache. A decoction of the roots has been used to treat worms in children. A paste of the roots, combined with an equal quantity of the root paste of Amaranthus spinosus, is used in the treatment of indigestion. The plant contains a volatile alkaloid and a glycoside called cnicin, which has emetic and emmenagogue properties. The leaves are antiphlogistic. They cause inflammation and have irritating properties.

Other Uses

Oil; Tinder. The seed fluff is used as a tinder. The seed of all species of thistles yields a good oil by expression. The seed of this species contains about 22% oil.

Notes: Grows in cooler months, dying back in autumn to re-shoot from root buds. Forms large colonies with dense growth crowding out desirable plants. Weed of pastures, crops, roadsides and wasteland in higher rainfall areas, particularly in Victoria and Tasmania.


Leichhardt, NSW

Bundanon, NSW


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