Cirsium arvense

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaAsteraceaeCirsiumCirsium arvense


A perennial herb of over-grazed pastures, hay meadows and rough grassy places, roadsides, arable fields and other cultivated land, and in urban habitats and waste ground. Plants regenerate freely from rhizome fragments which are broken up by ploughing or other disturbance. 0-700 m (Breadalbanes, Mid Perth), and at 845 m on Great Dun Fell (Westmorland).



World Distribution

Eurasian Temperate element, but naturalised in N. America so distribution is now Circumpolar Temperate.

Broad Habitats

Light (Ellenberg): 8

Moisture (Ellenberg): 6

Reaction (Ellenberg): 7

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 6


Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 3.6

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 14.5

Annual Precipitation (mm): 1092

Life form information

Height (cm): 120

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary

Non-bulbous geophyte (rhizome, corm or tuber)



Clonality - primary

Clones formed by suckering from roots

Distribution information

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 2736

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 968

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 14

Atlas Change Index: 0.47

Weighted Changed Factor: -34

Weighted Change Factor Confidence (90%)


Distribution information

JNCC Designations


PLANTATT - Attributes of British and Irish plants. (.zip 1455KB) This dataset was compiled and published in 2004, and last updated in November 2008. Download includes an Excel spreadsheet of the attributes, and a PDF explaining the background and nomenclature. Note that the PDF version is the booklet as published, whereas the Excel spreadsheet incorporates subsequent corrections. A hardcopy can be purchased from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

Atlas text references

Atlas (289a)
Grime JP, Hodgson JG, Hunt R
1988.  Comparative Plant Ecology.
Hultén E, Fries M
1986.  Atlas of north European vascular plants north of the Tropic of Cancer. 3 vols.
1985.  Hermaphrodites and subhermaphrodites in a reputedly dioecious plant, Cirsium arvense (L.) Scop. New Phytologist. 100:457-472.
Meusel H, Jäger EJ
1992.  Vergleichende Chorologie der zentraleuropäischen Flora. Volume 3. 2 vols.
Moore RJ
1975.  The biology of Canadian weeds. 13. Cirsium arvense (L.) Scop. Canadian Journal of Plant Science. 55:1033-1048.
Werner (1975)