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Cabbage Thistle

Cirsium oleraceum

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, 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, 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:
Maximum Size:
150 centimetres tall
Fens, grassland, marshes, meadows, riversides, roadsides, sand dunes, seaside, wasteland, waterside, woodland.

Yellow, many petals
Clusters of creamy-white flowers, sometimes tinged pink. Flowers measure up to 4cm across. Pollinated by bees, flies, butterflies and moths.
A flattish, blunt seed (achene), about 5mm long. The seed has a tuft of feathery hairs at one end. The seeds ripen from August to October.
A clump-forming perennial with deeply lobed leaves. Leaf margins are weak-spined. Large green bracts.
Other Names:
Meadow Distaff, Siberian Thistle, Spear Thistle, Vegetable Thistle, Wild Thistle.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Cirsium oleraceum is a perennial herb in the Asteraceae family, commonly known as the spear thistle, vegetable thistle, or wild thistle. It is native to Europe and Asia, and can be found in a variety of habitats including grasslands, meadows, coastal dunes, and disturbed areas. The plant is known for its tall, spiky stems, large, purple flowers and its large, deeply lobed leaves. It is also considered an invasive species in some areas, particularly in North America, where it can outcompete native vegetation. In some traditional medicine and as a food source in some cultures.


Cabbage Thistle, Cirsium oleraceum, is a herbaceous biennial plant that belongs to the sunflower family (Asteraceae). It is native to Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa, but it has naturalized in many parts of the world, including North America and Australia.

This plant is often considered a weed due to its aggressive growth habit and ability to spread quickly. Cabbage Thistle grows up to 2 meters tall and has large, spiny leaves that form a rosette. The leaves are hairy and have a bluish-green color. The plant produces large, solitary, thistle-like flowers that are purplish-pink in color and can reach up to 5 centimeters in diameter.

Despite its reputation as a weed, Cabbage Thistle has several interesting uses. It is considered a wild edible plant and its leaves can be consumed either raw or cooked. In some parts of the world, the leaves are used to make soups or salads. The plant is also believed to have medicinal properties and has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including digestive problems, wounds, and skin infections.

Cabbage Thistle is also a popular ornamental plant due to its striking appearance. Its large, thistle-like flowers and spiny leaves make it an attractive addition to gardens and flower beds. The plant is also a popular choice for wildlife gardens, as it provides food and habitat for various insects and birds.

If you are considering growing Cabbage Thistle in your garden, it is important to be aware of its aggressive growth habit. The plant can easily spread and become invasive, so it is recommended to plant it in a contained area or to grow it in pots.

Cabbage Thistle, Cirsium oleraceum, is an interesting and useful plant that is worth considering for your garden or wildlife habitat. With its attractive appearance and multiple uses, it is a plant that is worth knowing and growing.

Cabbage Thistle is also a great source of nectar for bees and other pollinators. This is because its large, showy flowers are rich in nectar and provide an important food source for pollinators during the summer months. The plant also attracts a variety of insects, including butterflies and moths, which in turn provide food for birds such as blue tits and goldfinches.

In terms of its growth and propagation, Cabbage Thistle is a hardy plant that can grow in a variety of soils and climates. It is best planted in full sun to partial shade, and it is relatively drought-tolerant once established. The plant produces seeds that are easily spread by wind or water, and it can also propagate via underground runners.

One of the challenges of growing Cabbage Thistle is controlling its spread, as it can quickly become invasive in certain areas. However, with proper management and control, it can be a beautiful and useful addition to a garden or landscape. Some gardeners choose to grow it in pots or raised beds, or they may simply remove the flowering heads before they produce seeds.

In addition to its ornamental and ecological value, Cabbage Thistle is also an important plant in traditional medicine. It has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments, and its leaves, roots, and seeds contain compounds with medicinal properties. For example, the leaves have been used to treat digestive problems and the roots have been used as a diuretic.

Overall, Cabbage Thistle is a fascinating and versatile plant that has much to offer in terms of ornamental value, ecological importance, and medicinal use. If you are looking for a hardy and attractive plant for your garden, or if you are interested in traditional medicine, Cabbage Thistle is definitely worth considering.

In addition to its ornamental, ecological, and medicinal value, Cabbage Thistle also has a rich cultural and historical significance. In many parts of Europe, the plant was associated with magic and folklore, and it was believed to have the power to ward off evil spirits. In some cultures, it was also believed to bring good luck and prosperity, and it was used as a symbol of hope and resilience.

Today, Cabbage Thistle continues to play an important role in many cultures and traditions. For example, in Scotland, the plant is a symbol of national pride and is often worn on traditional kilts and other clothing. In some parts of the world, the plant is also used in religious ceremonies, and it is considered to be a sacred plant with spiritual significance.

Despite its many uses and benefits, Cabbage Thistle is often misunderstood and underappreciated. In many parts of the world, it is considered a weed and is aggressively controlled or removed. However, with proper management and education, Cabbage Thistle can be an important and valuable plant that contributes to the beauty, diversity, and richness of our environment.

In conclusion, Cabbage Thistle, Cirsium oleraceum, is a remarkable plant that has much to offer in terms of ornamental value, ecological importance, medicinal use, cultural significance, and historical significance. Whether you are a gardener, a naturalist, or a cultural enthusiast, Cabbage Thistle is a plant that is worth knowing and appreciating.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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