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Slender Thistle

Carduus tenuiflorus

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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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, 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, Treasureflower, Trifid Bur-marigold, Tuberous Thistle, Tyneside Leopardplant, Viper's Grass, Wall Lettuce, Welsh Groundsel, Welted Thistle, White African Daisy, 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:
60 centimetres tall
Beaches, grassland, meadows, roadsides, seaside, walls, wasteland.

Purple, many petals
Small, unstalked, pale pink-purple flowers, up to 1cm across. The flowers are in clusters of 3 to 10 and are frequently shorter than spiny bracts.
Brown, shiny achenes, up to 5mm across.
Spiny, dull olive green, pinnately lobed leaves. The leaves are whitish-grey downy on their undersides. The stems are very spiny. Annual or biennial.
Other Names:
Italian Thistle, Multiheaded Thistle, Sheep Thistle, Shore Thistle, Slender-flower Thistle, Winged Plumeless Thistle, Winged Slender Thistle, Winged Thistle.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Carduus tenuiflorus, also known as the Slender 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.


Slender Thistle (Carduus tenuiflorus) is a beautiful and unique species of thistle that is native to central and southern Europe. Despite its delicate appearance, this plant is incredibly hardy and can withstand harsh conditions, making it a popular choice for gardeners and nature enthusiasts alike.

Slender Thistle is a biennial plant, meaning that it takes two years to complete its life cycle. In the first year, it grows a rosette of leaves close to the ground. The leaves are thin and lance-shaped, with serrated edges and a spiky texture. In the second year, the plant grows a tall stem that can reach up to 2 meters in height. This stem is topped with delicate, purple flowers that bloom in the summer.

One of the most interesting features of Slender Thistle is its unique leaf structure. Unlike most thistles, which have leaves that are covered in spiky thorns, the leaves of Slender Thistle are covered in fine, soft hairs. This makes the plant much more pleasant to touch, and less of a hazard when working around it.

Another great feature of Slender Thistle is its versatility in the garden. This plant can be used as a focal point in a mixed border, or it can be used to create a wildflower meadow. Its delicate purple flowers are a great source of nectar for bees and butterflies, making it an important plant for supporting pollinators.

Slender Thistle is also a great choice for gardeners who are looking for a low-maintenance plant. Once established, it requires very little care and can be left to grow on its own. It can also be easily divided and replanted, making it a great option for expanding your garden or creating a new one.

Slender Thistle is a beautiful and versatile plant that is perfect for adding some delicate beauty to your garden. With its unique leaf structure and hardy nature, it is sure to make a great addition to any outdoor space.

In addition to its ornamental value, Slender Thistle also has a long history of use in traditional medicine. The plant has been used for centuries to treat various ailments, including digestive problems and skin conditions. The roots, stems, and leaves of the plant contain a variety of compounds that are believed to have medicinal properties, including flavonoids, phenolic acids, and essential oils.

In traditional medicine, Slender Thistle was often used as a tonic to improve overall health and vitality. It was also used to stimulate digestion and reduce bloating, as well as to treat skin conditions such as eczema and acne. The plant was often combined with other herbs to create remedies for specific health problems.

While modern medicine has not yet fully explored the potential health benefits of Slender Thistle, preliminary studies suggest that the plant may have a number of positive effects on human health. For example, some research has suggested that compounds found in the plant may have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, which could help to protect against a variety of chronic health problems.

It is important to note, however, that the use of Slender Thistle as a medicinal herb should be approached with caution. The plant can be toxic if consumed in large quantities, and there is a lack of scientific evidence to support its use for specific health problems. If you are interested in using Slender Thistle for its potential health benefits, it is best to speak with a healthcare professional first.

Slender Thistle is a beautiful and versatile plant that has a rich history of use in traditional medicine. While its medicinal properties are still being explored, there is some evidence to suggest that the plant may have a number of positive effects on human health.

Aside from its ornamental and medicinal uses, Slender Thistle also has an important role in the ecosystem. As a member of the aster family, it is a food source for a variety of pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and moths. These pollinators are essential for maintaining the health of the ecosystem, as they help to pollinate plants and support the growth of other species.

In addition to its role as a food source, Slender Thistle also provides important habitat for a variety of wildlife species. The tall stems of the plant can provide shelter for birds and small mammals, while the leaves and stems can be used for nesting materials.

Despite its importance in the ecosystem, Slender Thistle is often considered an invasive species in some parts of the world. This is because it can easily spread and outcompete native plant species, which can have negative impacts on the local ecosystem. For this reason, it is important to be mindful of where you plant Slender Thistle and to monitor its growth and spread over time.

In conclusion, Slender Thistle is a unique and important species of thistle that has a wide range of uses and benefits. Whether you are a gardener, a health enthusiast, or an eco-conscious individual, there is much to appreciate about this beautiful and versatile plant. Whether you choose to plant it in your garden, use it for its potential health benefits, or simply admire its delicate beauty, Slender Thistle is a plant that is well worth considering.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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