19 Types of Thistle Weeds

The burden of every gardener’s existence is weeds of the thistle variety. Thistles come in a variety of species, some of which are perennials. They continue to expand over the course of several years.

There’s the Alpine, Distaff, Common, Desert, Musk, Syria, Dandelion, Spear, Globe, Milk, Carline, Slender, Meadow, Creeping, Woolly, Melancholy, Cotton, and Field Thistles. 

Which can put an unsuspecting gardener in a sticky situation if they are not careful.

List of the 19 Different Varieties of Thistle Weeds

1. The Alpine Thistle
Alpine Thistle

Alpine thistle is the common name for a perennial plant that is indigenous to the mountainous regions of Europe, Asia, North America, and South America. 

It is native to rocky environments, such as mountains, hillsides, and meadows, where it may be found growing. 

Mountain sorrel, mountain spinach, and wild spinach are some of the frequent names for this plant, which may reach a height of up to three feet.

As a result, the alpine thistle, much like many of its other spiny relatives, has a great deal of potential for use in medicine. 

It is used to cure liver disorders, constipation, and fever in traditional Chinese medicine, for example, and is even thought to be an aphrodisiac – so moves over oysters, are you right?

2. The Distaff Thistle

Distaff thistles may be found throughout North America. They prefer sandy soil and can be seen growing in open forests, prairies, and dunes. 

The stems of these plants may grow to be more than 6 meters tall. In the spring, they will yield yellow blooms.

Sesquiterpene lactones are natural anti-inflammatory substances that may also be found in high amounts in lavender, rosemary, and chamomile. 

Sesquiterpene lactones are found in distaff thistle, which also contains these molecules.

3. The Common Thistle

One of the most well-known and ubiquitous species of thistle, the common thistle is one of the thistle plants in this genus. They may reach heights of up to five feet and can be seen growing in fields, meadows, and along the sides of highways. 

Their thorny stems and leaves have poked many a hiker, yet despite their naturally prickly nature, they have been purposefully grown for thousands of years.

Thistles are perennial herbs that produce huge, bulbous, purple blooms. 

While these blossoms are fairly attractive, they are not spectacular enough to dislodge the “weed status” that gardeners all over the world have assigned to this plant.

4. The Desert Thistle

Desert thistle is a kind of plant that is indigenous to North America and may be found growing wild across the Southwest. It thrives well in warm, arid environments with sandy soils. 

This perennial plant may reach a height of 9 inches and has blooms that are only a few millimeters across and bloom between the end of spring and the beginning of summer.

It is not regarded to be a harmful plant, in contrast to many other members of its prickly family. 

If you reside in a polluted location, growing desert thistles will assist in cleaning the air you breathe by removing some of the pollutants that are there. Desert thistles are very good at absorbing toxins from the air.

5. The Musk Thistle
Musk Thistle

Musk thistle is a perennial plant that is indigenous to both Europe and North America. It thrives in circumstances of wet soil and may reach a height of up to 1.5 meters. 

It is most commonly seen growing in meadows and pastures that have been intensively grazed, although it is completely capable of surviving in the open soil of disturbed regions like construction sites and roadside ditches.

It is a biannual plant, which means that its entire life cycle takes place over the course of two years; but, in sufficiently warm temperatures, it can germinate in a single year. 

It has dark green leaves, and the flowers have a reddish-purple color that is typical of many species of thistle.

6. Thistle of Syria 

The Syrian thistle is a plant that is native to the Middle East and may reach a height of up to 5 feet. The Syrians utilise the dried blossoms of these plants to prepare therapeutic drinks. 

These beverages are claimed to treat the symptoms of cold and flu, but this is just the tip of the iceberg.

They are also utilized in the treatment of psoriasis, arthritis, asthma, and a variety of other conditions. 

It is also stated that Syrians will utilize the leaves to form a paste that can assist in the healing of wounds, and that they will ground the seeds into a powder that can be used to cure conjunctivitis. 

Both of these practices have been passed down by oral tradition.

7. The Dandelion

Did you know that those pesky dandelions that pop up on your lawn every summer and give you a run for your money are a subspecies of the thistle? Incredible, isn’t it?

One of the most adaptable plants in nature is the common dandelion. They are simple to cultivate in virtually any area, including those with poor soil, and they are an important source of nutrition for a wide variety of animals.

The leaves have a high concentration of vitamin A, and the root system has been shown to contain oxalic acid. Oxalic acid has been demonstrated to help lower cholesterol levels, limit the formation of cancer cells, fight against infections, and even assist in the dissolution of kidney stones.

8. The Spear Thistle

The most likely contender for the genuine Scottish thistle is the spear thistle, followed by the common thistle and the bull thistle. 

This is another natural species that may be found in plentiful supply over the majority of the United Kingdom. In addition to its many advantages for wild animals, this has only a few applications in the kitchen.

The root may be cooked and has a flavor that is similar to that of Jerusalem artichoke. Additionally, the blossom buds can be cooked and consumed in the same manner. The cheese-making process can also benefit from the usage of dried flowers as an alternative to rennet. 

Eating the weeds in your garden is a terrific method to get rid of them without destroying the natural biodiversity you have worked so hard to cultivate there, even though certain weeds may be rather harmful.

9. The Globe Artichoke

If the possibility of eating some of the thistles described above piqued your curiosity, then you will probably be quite interested in cultivating globe artichokes in your garden. Globe artichokes are a kind of thistle. 

Cynara is a plant that resembles thistles and can be found growing in a variety of food gardens. The Cynara scolymus plant is responsible for the production of the edible globe artichoke.

The area of the plant that is suitable for consumption is, of course, the flower bud before the flowers open out completely. 

The United Kingdom is home to a diverse range of cultivars that may be harvested for human use. The choke, or heart, of an artichoke, is considered a delicacy not only in Italy but also in other parts of the world. The leaves that cover the choke can also be consumed.

10. The Milk Thistle

Milk thistles, also known as blessed Mary’s thistles, lady’s thistles, and thistles, are hardy perennials that grow rosettes of broad, spiky leaves that are veined with white and purple flower heads. Other names for milk thistles are blessed thistles and lady’s thistles.

They are native to the Mediterranean region, but they may be grown in a garden in the United Kingdom if they receive full sunlight, have soil that ranges in fertility from poor to medium, is well-drained, and has a pH that is either neutral or slightly alkaline. 

It also has the potential to be used in a variety of food applications; however, if grown in nitrogen-rich soil, it can accumulate nitrates, thus caution is advised.

11. The Carline Thistle

The Carline thistle is characterized by the production of flower heads that are brown and golden in color and resemble those of a seeded thistle. This spiky biennial plant does well on dry chalk grassland in England and Wales, where it may also be found. 

They generate interest for a prolonged period, and although the flower heads appear like a thistle that has flowered and gone to seed, they are, in fact, at the peak of their bloom. And the dead heads will continue to be there, often lasting from fall through the next spring.

12. The Slender Thistle

The slender thistle, which is also known as the seaside thistle, is a plant that may be found growing naturally in the United Kingdom, most frequently in coastal areas. It is not particularly common in the interior of the country. 

It may grow rather tall and produces little flower heads with pinking petals that cluster in groups of three or more.

This thistle is best suited for coastal gardens that have soil that drains well. 

Carduus crispus, often known as the welted thistle, is a species that is quite similar to C. cristatus and is distributed across the United Kingdom, particularly south of Edinburgh.

13. The Meadow Thistle

The meadow thistle is an herbaceous perennial that is short and thin, and the leaves of the plant do not have any huge spines on them. It reaches a maximum height of around 80 centimeters and has a solitary blossom that is pinkish-purple in color. 

It is most frequently discovered in grasslands and moist meadows. If you live in Southern England, South Wales, or Northern Ireland, you might be able to accommodate it in your yard by creating a comparable environment for it.

14. The Creeping Thistle

This type of thistle is the most widespread in the UK. It thrives on disturbed and cultivated land and may be found almost anywhere. Because of its rapid reproduction, it is sometimes categorized as a weed. 

However, much like the other types of thistles, it offers a lot of benefits to the surrounding fauna. 

Birds that live in gardens and farmlands rely heavily on the seeds produced by this plant. In the past, just as with other types of thistles, people considered them to be a source of nourishment for humans.

15. The Scottish Thistle
Scottish Thistle

Even though it is likely to be one of the most frequent plants that come to mind when you think of the thistle, the thistle that serves as the national symbol of Scotland was selected by Sir Walter Scott, and it is not truly a native species. 

It is thought to have been brought over from Europe before the 16th century and has since become a native species in several regions.

Even though it spreads quickly and is sometimes labeled as a weed, it is still a valuable plant that blooms from July through September and is known for drawing in a variety of different animals. Cooking and eating the flower buds is possible, but they are a bit tricky. 

The stems, after having the peel removed, may be boiled in the same manner as asparagus or rhubarb.

16. The Woolly Thistle

This is a species of thistle that is mostly located in the southern region of England and is considered to be rather rare. It does best in grasslands composed of chalk or limestone and will thrive in a southern garden if maintained in this manner. 

This particular kind of thistle may be identified by its distinctively fuzzy bloom heads. The spiky bracts that are coated in “white wool” are located near the top of the reddish-purple blooms.

17. The Melancholy Thistle 

The melancholy thistle was traditionally used as a treatment for depression, thus the name of the plant. It was reported in the well-known Culpepper’s Herbal, which was first published in the seventeenth century, that it could make people as happy as a cricket!

It is possible to find it growing in grassland, meadows, roadside verges, near streams, and even in woodlands as long as the trees are not too densely packed together. This species of thistle is not among the most common, and a wildlife protection order has been issued to save it in Northern Ireland.

It is also exceptional in several other respects. Each plant produces a solitary bloom that is a deep purplish-red color and begins its life drooping before maturing into an erect position. 

In addition, the undersides of the leaves are covered with a cottony white coating rather than possessing sharp spines.

The plant has the potential to reach a height of anywhere between 18 and 47 inches, while the blossoms themselves may reach a maximum diameter of 2 inches. 

In the northern hemisphere, their appearance occurs later in the summer, between the months of July and August.

18. The Cotton Thistle

There are a few other names for the cotton thistle, including the Argentine thistle and the down thistle. In addition to that, it is an excellent alternative for producing a spectacular center point in your garden. 

It has delicate gray leaves that can be up to a foot long, and it can grow to an astounding height of thirteen feet. During the summer, the flower heads of this plant can reach a diameter of up to 2 inches. 

It can take anywhere from two to five years for it to reach its maximum height. The time it takes is dependent on the specifics of the situation.

It can reach a height of up to 1 meter and a width of up to 1 meter and a half when it is completely mature. It is not picky about the type of soil it grows in as long as it is neutral or slightly alkaline, but it does like that the soil it grows in has good drainage. In addition to that, it needs a lot of suns. 

However, very little upkeep is required if the circumstances are correct. It does not require any kind of trimming, and if you do not remove its spent flowers, it will freely produce new plants by seeding itself.

19. The Field Thistle

It is possible to find the field thistle in a significant portion of both the United States and Canada. It may reach a height of up to 200 centimeters (79 inches) and has huge, spectacular flower heads that are very attractive to pollinating insects. 

The hues range from lavender to a deeper pink that has a purple undertone to it.

The fact that each plant has just one blossom stalk lends the plant an almost sculptural appearance. The undersides of the leaves have a cottony white look, while the tops of the leaves have a green coloration. 

In many respects, it is comparable to the spear thistle; however, the blooms of the former tend to be paler and less spiny. It is not the best option for gardens that are on the smaller side, but it may be quite effective when used as part of a wildflower meadow. 

In addition, butterflies, such as the Painted Lady, find nectar to be an abundant source of food.

Final Thoughts on – 19 Types of Thistle Weeds

Thistle is one of the weeds that is the most difficult to get rid of because it has prickles on its stems and deep tap roots. 

In addition to this, some of these species of prolific self-seeders are invasive and can swiftly take over an area. 

Thistle is a very adaptable plant that can thrive in a wide variety of environments, from pastures and roadside ditches to flowerbeds and lawns. 

Thistles can be either annuals or biennials, depending on the species. In their first year, the annuals develop low-growing rosettes. Biennials are plants that only live for two years before passing away. 

Patricia Godwin

Patricia has many years of experience as a content writer on various subjects, but her first love is gardening. She’s never met a plant she didn’t like and, consequently, she writes about every type of plant you can think of. Once an avid gardener with a herb garden, a succulent rockery, and a rose garden – to mention a few. Nowadays, she’s constantly on the move searching for interesting plants to bring to your attention; and explain to you all the details you need to grow, care and maintain these plants.

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