Cirsium vulgare

Bull Thistle, spear thistle, black thistle, boar thistle, common thistle, green thistle, Scotch thistle

Description: evergreen biennial 

Place of origin: Eurasia and North Africa 

Urban habitat: Commonly found in repeatedly disturbed landscapes, vacant lots, abandoned building lots, rubble dumps, along highways, railroad tracks and near fresh water sources. It can tolerate a wide range of soil pH levels.

Ecological function: disturbance-adapted colonizer; food and habitat for insects.

History: Cirsium vulgare is thought to have been introduced to North America in colonial times, in the 1700s, and can be found on every continent except Antarctica. It is currently considered invasive in 10 U.S. states and 2 Canadian provinces. Despite its sharp-tipped leaves, the young stems are edible when peeled and boiled. Native American tribes including the Cherokee, Deleware, Navajo and Iriquois used the plant medicinally, to treat cancer, rheumatism, hemorrhoids, and in a steam treatment for bruises and swellings. The fiber obtained from its inner bark has been used to make paper.