Canada thistle

(Cirsium arvense)

Conservation Status
Canada thistle
  IUCN Red List

not listed


NNA - Not applicable

SNA - Not applicable


not listed

Weed Status

Prohibited Weed Seed

State Prohibited Noxious Weed, Prohibited – Control

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

FACU - Facultative upland


FACU - Facultative upland

  Northcentral & Northeast

FACU - Facultative upland






12 to 48


Flower Color




Similar Species


Disturbed sites. Fields, pastures, roadsides, waste places.




June to October


Pests and Diseases


Canada thistle bud weevil (Larinus carlinae) larvae feed in the flower bud and feed on the developing seeds.

Canada thistle stem gall fly (Urophora cardui)

PST (Pseudomonas syringae pv. tagetis) is a bacterum that causes whitened plant growth (chlorosis) on only the upper portion of the plant, stunted growth, fewer shoots, and inhibition of flowering.




Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 22, 24, 28, 29, 30.




Native to western Asia and Europe. Introduced and naturalized in North America.




Common and widespread

  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Asteranae  


Asterales (sunflowers, bellflowers, fanflowers, and allies)  


Asteraceae (sunflowers, daisies, asters, and allies)  
  Subfamily Carduoideae (thistles and allies)  
  Tribe Cardueae  
  Subtribe Carduinae (thistles and burdocks)  
  Genus Cirsium (plume thistles)  

Subordinate Taxa






Carduus arvensis

Cirsium arvense var. argenteum

Cirsium arvense var. horridum

Cirsium arvense var. integrifolium

Cirsium arvense var. mite

Cirsium arvense var. vestitum

Cirsium incanum

Cirsium setosum

Serratula arvensis


Common Names


California thistle

Canada thistle

Canadian thistle

creeping thistle

perennial thistle











Visitor Photos

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Alfredo Colon

    Canada thistle      

Bill Reynolds


My old field is about to burst out in thistle bloom. I know the Canadian Thistle is on the invasive list, but I let my bees work it then I start cutting the blooms from before they can go to seed.

  Canada thistle  


    Canada thistle      


    Canada thistle      

Flower Heads

    Canada thistle   Canada thistle  
    Canada thistle      


    Canada thistle      

Fruiting Heads

    Canada thistle   Canada thistle  
    Canada thistle      



  Creeping Thistle
Wez Smith
  Creeping Thistle  

Creeping Thistle (Cirsium arvense).

  Cirsium arvense
Matt Lavin
  Cirsium arvense  

Introduced rhizomatous perennial often about 1 m tall, with relatively small flowering heads (involucre less than 2 cm high), leaves not densely woolly on either the upper or lower surface, moist disturbed sites from low elevation open areas to open montane understory.

  Canada Thistle
Andree Reno Sanborn
  Canada Thistle  

Cirsium arvense

  Cirsium arvense FIELD THISTLE
Frank Mayfield
  Cirsium arvense FIELD THISTLE  



Visitor Videos

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Other Videos
  Canada Thistle, identification of the Wisconsin Invasive Species Cirsium arvense

Uploaded on Jan 31, 2011

This is part of a series of videos providing key characteristics for the identification of invasive plants listed in Wisconsin's invasive species administrative rule NR 40. These videos are produced by Dr. Mark Renz of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. For more information on invasive plants and invasive plant management in Wisconsin visit

  Weed of the Week #597-Canada Thistle (From Ag PhD #597 9/13/09)

Uploaded on Sep 21, 2009

Good things from Canada: Rush, Justin Morneau, Tuquks. Bad things from Canada: Anne Murrary, Canada Thistle. Just kidding about Canada Thistle. We'll show you how to kill this weed in this week's weed of the week.

  Canada Thistle - Phenology Note w John Latimer

Uploaded on Aug 11, 2009

KAXE Phenologist John Latimer talks about the Canada Thistle, one of two common types of tall thistle in Northern MN.

  The Invaders: Canada Thistle

Uploaded on Aug 13, 2009

Professional Horticulturist and Master Gardener Ellen Nibali identifies the Canada Thistle (cirsium arvense) and explains how to remove this invasive plant from your garden.

Click here to read our publication on invasive species for even more information:

This video is brought to you by the Home and Garden Information Center, part of University of Maryland Extension. Learn about our Grow It Eat It campaign, which provides resources and encourages people to start their own food gardens.

Check out our facebook page for more gardening advice:!/GIEIMaryland

Intro Credit: "Invasion of the Body Snatchers: (1956); Allied Artists. Music and shot of woman screaming used here in accordance with Fair Use.

Shot and Edited by: Alix Watson and Emily Heimsoth




Visitor Sightings

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Be sure to include a location.
  Alfredo Colon

Location: Woodbury, Minnesota

Canada thistle  
  Bill Reynolds

Location: Pennington County

My old field is about to burst out in thistle bloom.  I know the Canadian Thistle is on the invasive list, but I let my bees work it then I start cutting the blooms from before they can go to seed.

Canada thistle  

Agassiz Dunes SNA (MN DNR)

Anna Gronseth Prairie

Antelope Valley SNA

Avon Hills Forest SNA, North Unit

Baker Park Reserve

Belgium Prairie

Bertram Chain of Lakes Regional Park

Blaine Preserve SNA

Buffalo River State Park

Bur Oak WMA

Butterwort Cliffs SNA

Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center

Carver Highlands WMA, South Unit

Carver Park Reserve

Cedar Mountain SNA

Cedar Rock SNA

Charles A. Lindbergh State Park

Cherry Grove Blind Valley SNA

Chippewa Prairie

Clear Lake SNA

Clifton E. French Regional Park

Compass Prairie SNA

Cottonwood River Prairie SNA

Crosby Farm Regional Park

Crow Wing State Park

Crow-Hassan Park Reserve

Crystal Spring SNA

Des Moines River SNA

Dodge Nature Center

Dry Sand WMA

Elm Creek Park Reserve

Falls Creek SNA

Felton Prairie SNA, Bicentennial Unit

Felton WMA

Flandrau State Park

Foxhome Prairie

Franconia Bluffs SNA

Frontenac State Park

Glacial Lakes State Park

Glendalough State Park

Glynn Prairie SNA

Greenleaf Lake SRA

Hastings Sand Coulee SNA

Hayes Lake State Park

Hole-in-the-Mountain Prairie

Holthe Prairie SNA

Hyland Lake Park Reserve

Hythecker Prairie SNA

Iron Horse Prairie SNA

Iron Springs Bog SNA

Itasca State Park

Jensen Memorial WMA

John Murtaugh Memorial WMA

John Peter Hoffman Spring Brook Valley WMA

Kasota Prairie SNA

Kettledrummer Prairie

Kilen Woods State Park

Lake Alexander Woods SNA, South Unit

Lake Elmo Park Reserve

Lake Rebecca Park Reserve

Langhei Prairie SNA

Lebanon Hills Regional Park

Lester Lake SNA

Lutsen SNA

Malmberg Prairie SNA

Maplewood State Park

Margherita Preserve-Audubon Prairie

Mary Schmidt Crawford Woods SNA

Mille Lacs Kathio State Park

Miller Prairie, West Unit

Minneopa State Park

Minnesota Valley NWR, Chaska Unit

Mississippi River County Park

Monson Lake State Park

Mound Spring Prairie SNA, North Unit

Myre-Big Island State Park

Nerstrand Big Woods State Park

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Hoffman Unit

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Pavia Unit

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Rengstorf Unit

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Spieker Unit

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Touch the Sky Prairie Unit

Old Mill State Park

Ordway Prairie

Oronoco Prairie SNA

Otter Tail Prairie SNA

Oxbow Park & Zollman Zoo

Pembina Trail Preserve SNA, Crookston Prairie Unit

Pembina Trail Preserve SNA, Pembina Trail Unit

Phelps Lake WMA

Pilot Knob

Plover Prairie, East Unit

Potato Lake SNA

Prairie Coteau SNA

Prairie Creek WMA, Koester Prairie Unit

Prairie Smoke Dunes SNA

Red Rock Prairie

Regal Meadow

Rice Lake Savanna SNA

Richard M. & Mathilde Rice Elliott SNA

River Warren Outcrops SNA

Robert Ney Memorial Park Reserve

Rock Ridge Prairie SNA

Rockville County Park

Roscoe Prairie SNA

St. Croix Savanna SNA

Sand Prairie Wildlife Management and Environmental Education Area

Santee Prairie SNA

Savage Fen SNA

Savanna Portage State Park

Schaefer Prairie

Schoolcraft State Park

Sedan Brook SNA

Seven Sisters Prairie

Seven Springs WMA

Sheepberry Fen

Shooting Star Prairie SNA

Sibley State Park

Split Rock Creek State Park

Spring Beauty Northern Hardwoods SNA

Spring Lake Park Reserve

Spring Prairie Preserve

Springbrook Nature Center

Staffanson Prairie

Strandness Prairie

Sunfish Lake Park

Swedes Forest SNA

Thorson Prairie WMA

Tiedemann WMA

Town Hall Prairie

Townsend Woods SNA

Tribute WMA

Twin Valley Prairie Addition

Twin Valley Prairie SNA

Twin Valley WMA: North Unit

Tympanuchus Prairie

Uncas Dunes SNA

Valley View Park

Verlyn Marth Memorial Prairie SNA

Vermillion Highlands Research Recreation and WMA

Vermillion River WMA

Whitetail Woods Regional Park

Wild Indigo SNA

Wood-Rill SNA

Woodbury WMA

Yellow Bank Hills SNA

Zimmerman Prairie







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