Name: Bull Thistle (Cirsium vulgare)
Other names: spear thistle, common thistle, Scots, Scottish, or Scotch thistle
Clades: Angiosperms, Eudicots, Asterids
Description: It is a tall biennial or short-lived monocarpic thistle, forming a rosette of leaves and a taproot up to 70 cm long in the first year, and a flowering stem 1–1.5 m tall in the second (rarely third or fourth) year. It sometimes will function as an annual, flowering in the first year. The stem is winged, with numerous longitudinal spine-tipped wings along its full length. The leaves are stoutly spined, grey-green, deeply lobed; the basal leaves up to 15–25 cm long, with smaller leaves on the upper part of the flower stem; the leaf lobes are spear-shaped (from which the English name derives). 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. As in other species of Cirsium (but unlike species in the related genus Carduus), the pappus hairs are feathery with fine side hairs.
Distribution: Native throughout most of Europe (north to 66°N, locally 68°N), Western Asia (east to the Yenisei Valley), and northwestern Africa (Atlas Mountains). It is also naturalized in North America, Africa, and Australia and is an invasive weed in some areas.
Invasive Species: Spear thistle is designated an "injurious weed" under the UK Weeds Act 1959, and a noxious weed in Australia and in nine US states. Spread is only by seed, not by root fragments as in the related creeping thistle C. arvense. It is best cleared from land by hoeing and deep cutting of the taproot before seeds mature; regular cultivation also prevents its establishment.
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