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Welted Thistle

Carduus crispus

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Asteraceae (Daisy)
Also in this family:
Alpine Blue Sow-thistle, Alpine Cotula, Alpine Fleabane, Alpine Saw-wort, Annual Ragweed, Annual Sunflower, Argentine Fleabane, Autumn Hawkbit, Autumn Oxeye, Beaked Hawksbeard, Beggarticks, Bilbao Fleabane, Black Knapweed, Black-eyed Susan, Blanketflower, Blue Fleabane, Blue Globe-thistle, Bristly Oxtongue, Broad-leaved Cudweed, Broad-leaved Ragwort, Brown Knapweed, Butterbur, Buttonweed, Cabbage Thistle, Canadian Fleabane, Canadian Goldenrod, Carline Thistle, Chalk Knapweed, Chamois Ragwort, Changing Michaelmas Daisy, Chicory, Chinese Mugwort, Chinese Ragwort, Coltsfoot, Common Blue Sow-thistle, Common Cat's-ear, Common Cudweed, Common Daisy, Common Dandelion, Common Fleabane, Common Goldenrod, Common Groundsel, Common Michaelmas Daisy, Common Mugwort, Common Ragwort, Common Wormwood, Coneflower, Confused Michaelmas Daisy, Corn Chamomile, Corn Marigold, Cornflower, Cotton Thistle, Cottonweed, Creeping Thistle, Daisy Bush, Dwarf Cudweed, Dwarf Thistle, Early Goldenrod, Eastern Groundsel, Eastern Leopardsbane, Elecampane, English Hawkweed, Fen Ragwort, Feverfew, Field Fleawort, Field Wormwood, Fox and Cubs, French Tarragon, Gallant Soldier, Garden Lettuce, Giant Butterbur, Glabrous-headed Hawkweed, Glandular Globe-thistle, Glaucous Michaelmas Daisy, Globe Artichoke, Globe-thistle, Goat's Beard, Golden Ragwort, Golden Samphire, Goldilocks Aster, Grass-leaved Goldenrod, Great Lettuce, Greater Burdock, Greater Knapweed, Grey-headed Hawkweed, Guernsey Fleabane, Hairless Blue Sow-thistle, Hairless Leptinella, Hairy Michaelmas Daisy, Harpur Crewe's Leopardsbane, Hawkweed Oxtongue, Heath Cudweed, Heath Groundsel, Hemp Agrimony, Highland Cudweed, Hoary Mugwort, Hoary Ragwort, Hybrid Knapweed, Intermediate Burdock, Irish Fleabane, Jersey Cudweed, Jerusalem Artichoke, Lance-leaved Hawkweed, Lavender-cotton, Leafless Hawksbeard, Least Lettuce, Leopardplant, Leopardsbane, Leptinella, Lesser Burdock, Lesser Hawkbit, Lesser Sunflower, London Bur-marigold, Magellan Ragwort, Marsh Cudweed, Marsh Hawksbeard, Marsh Ragwort, Marsh Sow-thistle, Marsh Thistle, Meadow Thistle, Melancholy Thistle, Mexican Fleabane, Milk Thistle, Mountain Everlasting, Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Musk Thistle, Narrow-leaved Cudweed, Narrow-leaved Hawkweed, Narrow-leaved Michaelmas Daisy, Narrow-leaved Ragwort, New England Hawkweed, New Zealand Holly, Nipplewort, Nodding Bur-marigold, Northern Hawksbeard, Norwegian Mugwort, Oxeye Daisy, Oxford Ragwort, Pearly Everlasting, Perennial Cornflower, Perennial Ragweed, Perennial Sow-thistle, Perennial Sunflower, Pineapple Mayweed, Plantain-leaved Leopardsbane, Ploughman's Spikenard, Plymouth Thistle, Pontic Blue Sow-thistle, Pot Marigold, Prickly Lettuce, Prickly Sow-thistle, Purple Coltsfoot, Rayed Tansy, Red Star Thistle, Red-seeded Dandelion, Red-tipped Cudweed, Robin's Plantain, Roman Chamomile, Rough Cocklebur, Rough Hawkbit, Rough Hawksbeard, Russian Lettuce, Safflower, Salsify, Saw-wort, Scented Mayweed, Scentless Mayweed, Sea Aster, Sea Mayweed, Sea Wormwood, Seaside Daisy, Shaggy Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Shaggy Soldier, Shasta Daisy, Shetland Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Shrub Ragwort, Sicilian Chamomile, Silver Ragwort, Slender Mugwort, Slender Thistle, Small Cudweed, Small Fleabane, Smooth Cat's-ear, Smooth Hawksbeard, Smooth Sow-thistle, Sneezeweed, Sneezewort, Spear Thistle, Spotted Cat's-ear, Spotted Hawkweed, Sticky Groundsel, Stinking Chamomile, Stinking Hawksbeard, Tall Fleabane, Tall Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Tansy, Thin-leaved Sunflower, Trifid Bur-marigold, Tuberous Thistle, Tyneside Leopardplant, Viper's Grass, Wall Lettuce, Welsh Groundsel, White Butterbur, White Buttons, Willdenow's Leopardsbane, Winter Heliotrope, Wood Burdock, Wood Ragwort, Woody Fleabane, Woolly Thistle, Yarrow, Yellow Chamomile, Yellow Fox and Cubs, Yellow Oxeye, Yellow Star Thistle, Yellow Thistle, York Groundsel
Life Cycle:
Annual or Biennial
Maximum Size:
150 centimetres tall
Fields, gardens, grassland, hedgerows, meadows, riverbanks, riversides, roadsides, sand dunes, seaside, towns, wasteland, waterside, woodland.

Purple, many petals
Purplish-red flowerheads, either solitary or in clusters. Flowers are each up to 3cm across. Slightly woolly bracts. Pollinated by bees, butterflies and moths.
A small, slightly flattened achene with a light yellowish-brown pappus. In fruit in July and August.
A biennial plant with alternate, spiny, pinnately lobed leaves. They are white and cottony beneath. The Welted Thistle has weaker spines than most Thistles have. The stems are downy and spiny winged, just like the similar looking Marsh Thistle.
The Welted Thistle emits a mild, somewhat sweet scent. This gentle aroma is characteristic of the plant and may be noticed when in close proximity to the thistle. The scent contributes to the overall sensory experience when encountering this plant in its natural habitat.
Other Names:
Curled Thistle, Curly Plumeless Thistle, Wavy-leaved Thistle.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Carduus crispus, also known as the wavy-leaved thistle or curly thistle, is a biennial or short-lived perennial herb native to Europe and Asia. It is typically found in grassland, meadows, and disturbed areas such as roadsides and pastures. The plant has a tall, spiky stem and produces large, pink or purple flower heads. Like other thistles, it is considered a weed and invasive in many countries. It can outcompete native vegetation and reduce forage for livestock. Control methods include mechanical removal, grazing, and the use of herbicides. The leaves of the plant are edible and can be eaten raw or cooked, traditionally it is used in soups and stews. Additionally, it has been used in traditional medicine for treating liver and gallbladder complaints.


Welted Thistle: A Beautiful and Resilient Wildflower

If you're a fan of wildflowers, then you're probably familiar with the Welted Thistle (Carduus crispus). This plant is a member of the sunflower family and is known for its striking beauty and resilience. The Welted Thistle is a biennial plant, meaning it grows for two years before producing flowers and seeds. In this blog, we'll take a closer look at the Welted Thistle and what makes it such a unique and valuable part of our natural landscape.

Appearance and Habitat

The Welted Thistle is a tall, spiky plant that can reach up to 6 feet in height. Its leaves are a bright green color and are deeply lobed, giving the plant a textured appearance. The flower heads are large and showy, typically measuring 2-3 inches in diameter. They are purple or blue in color and have a central disk surrounded by spiky bracts. The Welted Thistle is native to Europe but has been introduced to many other parts of the world, including North America, where it is now considered an invasive species in some areas.

One of the reasons the Welted Thistle is so successful is its ability to thrive in a variety of habitats. It can be found in fields, meadows, roadsides, and waste areas. The plant is especially well-suited to disturbed areas, where other plants may have difficulty growing.

Ecological Importance

In addition to its striking beauty, the Welted Thistle plays an important role in our ecosystem. The plant provides food and habitat for a variety of wildlife, including bees, butterflies, and birds. The nectar of the Welted Thistle attracts many different species of pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and hoverflies. The bracts of the flower head provide shelter for small insects, while the seeds of the plant are a food source for birds and other wildlife.

In addition to its value as a food and habitat source, the Welted Thistle is also important for soil health. The plant's deep root system helps to stabilize the soil and prevent erosion, making it an excellent choice for landscaping and restoration projects.

Cultivation and Use

While the Welted Thistle is often considered a nuisance in some areas, it can also be a valuable addition to your garden. The plant is easy to grow from seed and can be a striking addition to a wildflower meadow or a mixed border. If you're interested in growing Welted Thistle in your garden, be sure to give it plenty of room to grow and keep an eye out for any signs of invasive growth.

The Welted Thistle is a beautiful and resilient wildflower that is an important part of our natural landscape. Whether you're admiring it in the wild or growing it in your own garden, this plant is sure to make a striking impact. So next time you come across a Welted Thistle, take a moment to appreciate its beauty and ecological importance.


Aside from its ornamental value, the Welted Thistle has also been used for a number of medicinal purposes over the centuries. In traditional medicine, the plant was used to treat a variety of ailments, including indigestion, liver problems, and skin conditions.

The roots and leaves of the Welted Thistle contain a number of compounds that have been shown to have medicinal properties. For example, the plant contains sesquiterpene lactones, which have anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor effects. Additionally, the plant contains flavonoids and other compounds that have been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Despite its potential medicinal benefits, it's important to note that the Welted Thistle can also be toxic to humans and animals if consumed in large amounts. The plant contains a number of compounds that can irritate the skin and cause digestive upset, so it's important to handle it with care.

The Welted Thistle is a versatile and valuable plant that is an important part of our natural heritage. Whether you're admiring its beauty, using it in your garden, or exploring its medicinal properties, this plant is sure to leave a lasting impression. So the next time you come across a Welted Thistle, take a moment to appreciate all that this remarkable plant has to offer.

It's also worth mentioning that the Welted Thistle has a rich cultural history. In many cultures, the plant was considered a symbol of strength and resilience, and it was often used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments.

In Scotland, for example, the Welted Thistle is a symbol of national pride and is incorporated into the country's coat of arms. In ancient times, the plant was also used to ward off evil spirits and was believed to bring good luck to those who wore it.

Similarly, in folklore, the Welted Thistle was often associated with the fairy realm and was believed to provide protection from mischievous fairies. In some legends, the plant was said to bloom only at night and was guarded by fairies, making it difficult for humans to collect.

Despite its prickly appearance, the Welted Thistle has long been a source of inspiration and admiration, and it continues to be valued for its beauty and cultural significance today. So whether you're interested in its history, its medicinal properties, or its ornamental value, the Welted Thistle is a plant that is sure to captivate and intrigue.

25 Welted Thistle Facts

  1. Scientific Name: The Welted Thistle is scientifically known as Carduus crispus.

  2. Native Habitat: This thistle species is native to Europe and Western Asia.

  3. Appearance: It features distinctive welted or wrinkled leaves, giving it a unique appearance.

  4. Flowering Season: Welted Thistle typically blooms from June to September, producing striking purple-pink flower heads.

  5. Height: It can reach a height of up to 120 cm (4 feet).

  6. Invasive Species: In some regions, Welted Thistle is considered invasive, competing with native vegetation.

  7. Wildlife Habitat: Despite being invasive, the plant provides a habitat for various insects and birds.

  8. Spines: The plant is armed with sharp spines along the edges of its leaves and on the flower heads.

  9. Biennial Life Cycle: Welted Thistle is a biennial plant, completing its life cycle in two years.

  10. Soil Preference: It thrives in well-drained soil and is often found in grasslands, meadows, and disturbed areas.

  11. Cultural Uses: In traditional medicine, some cultures used parts of the Welted Thistle for various medicinal purposes.

  12. Butterfly Attraction: The flowers attract butterflies and other pollinators.

  13. Edibility: While not commonly consumed, young leaves of the Welted Thistle are edible when cooked.

  14. Distinctive Scent: The plant emits a mild, somewhat sweet scent.

  15. Adaptability: Welted Thistle can grow in a wide range of environmental conditions, from full sun to partial shade.

  16. Seed Dispersal: Seeds are dispersed by the wind, aiding in the plant's ability to colonize new areas.

  17. Genus Carduus: The Welted Thistle belongs to the genus Carduus, which includes various thistle species.

  18. Conservation Concern: In some areas, efforts are made to control the spread of Welted Thistle to protect native flora.

  19. Biological Control: Some insects are used as biological control agents to manage Welted Thistle populations.

  20. Human Impact: Human activities, such as agriculture and development, have contributed to the spread of this thistle.

  21. Root System: Welted Thistle has a deep taproot, aiding in its ability to access nutrients and water.

  22. Cultural Symbolism: Thistles, in general, hold symbolic significance in various cultures and are often associated with resilience.

  23. Growth Rate: The plant exhibits a relatively rapid growth rate, especially during its second year.

  24. Drought Tolerance: Welted Thistle shows a degree of tolerance to dry conditions, making it adaptable to different climates.

  25. Economic Impact: In agricultural settings, Welted Thistle can be considered a weed, impacting crop yields and quality.


Welted Thistles filmed at Greystones Nature Reserve in Bourton-on-the-water, Gloucestershire on the 24th June 2023.


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Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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