Information on Spear Thistle

Common Name: Spear Thistle
Scientific Name: Cirsium vulgare
Irish Name: Feochadán colgach
Family Group: Asteraceae
Distribution: View Map (Courtesy of the BSBI)
Flowering Period


Click for list of all flowering by month
Spear Thistle is not easily confused with other wild plants on this web site.


This stiff-stemmed downy, thistle is extremely spiny and very robust.  Being a biennial, early in the first year of its life its leaves form a very prickly rosette but by its first birthday it has become a downy plant which supports distinctive deep purple flowerheads (20-30mm), sometimes solitary, sometimes in clusters.  The spreading bracts below the flowers are also prickly, in fact there's not a lot of this plant which isn't prickly except for the actual flower head.  The leaves are wavy and pinnately lobed and spiny.  This plant flowers from July to October and then its seeds are distributed from a feathered pappus.  It is a native plant and belongs to the family Asteraceae.    

I first recorded this plant at Fionnavara Point, Co Clare in 1981 and photographed it in Ballytore, Co Kildare in 2003.

If you are satisfied you have correctly identified this plant, please submit your sighting to the National Biodiversity Data Centre

Thistle, Spear
Thistle, Spear

This thistle is thought to be the plant chosen by James II for Scotland's emblem as it was a symbol of defence.  This is also reflected by the motto on the coinage of James VI 'Nemo me impune lacessit' which translates as 'Nobody touches me with impunity'