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Onopordum acanthium

(Cotton Thistle)


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Common Names

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Click on the language to view common names.

Common Names in Azerbaijani:

Tikanlı qanqal

Common Names in Bulgarian:

Обикновен гингер

Common Names in Chinese:


Common Names in Dutch:


Common Names in English:

Cotton Thistle, Giant thistle, Heraldic Thistle, Scot's Thistle, Scotch Cotton Thistle, Scotch Cotton-Thistle, Scotch Cottonthistle, Scotch Thistle, Scottish Thistle, Woolly Thistle

Common Names in Finnish:


Common Names in French:

Chardon aux ânes, onoporde acanthe

Common Names in German:


Common Names in Greek (modern):


Common Names in Japanese:


Common Names in Lithuanian:

Dygliuotoji kardažolė

Common Names in Macedonian:

Магарешки трн

Common Names in Polish:

Popłoch pospolity

Common Names in Portuguese:

Cardo-Bastardo, Cardo-Espinhoso, Cardo-Selvagem

Common Names in Russian:

Татарник колючий

Common Names in Scottish Gaelic, Gaelic:


Common Names in Swedish:



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Family Compositae

The largest family of flowering plants , the Compositae (Asteraceae), comprising about 1,100 genera and more than 20,000 species and characterized by many small flowers arranged in a head looking like a single flower and subtended by an involucre of bracts. A head may consist of both ray flowers and disk flowers, as in the sunflower, of disk flowers only, as in the burdock, or of ray flowers only, as in the dandelion.

Genus Onopordum

Biennials, 50-400+ cm, coarse , prickly. Stems usually erect , ± branched, spiny-winged. Leaves basal and cauline; winged-petiolate (basal) or sessile (cauline) ; blade bases narrowing. margins pinnately lobed or divided and dentate , teeth and lobes tipped with stout spines. Heads discoid , borne singly or in corymbiform arrays; (peduncles 0 or spiny winged ). Involucres hemispheric to ovoid or spheric. Phyllaries many in 8-10+ series. linear to ovate , entire, tapered to stiff spines, middle and outer often spreading or reflexed . Receptacles flat to convex , epaleate, not bristly , alveolate with apically fringed pits. Florets many; corollas white or purple, actinomorphic or weakly zygmorphic, tubes slender, throats cylindric or narrowly goblet-shaped. lobes linear; anther bases acute-tailed, apical appendages subulate ; style branches: fused portions with minutely hairy nodes, long, cylindric, minutely papillate , distinct portions minute. Cypselae ± cylindric, 4-5-angled, usually ± transversely roughened, glabrous , attachment scars basal; pappi falling in ring , of many barbed or plumose bristles , basally connate . x = 17.

Species 25-60: introduced ; Eurasia .[1]

Physical Description

Habit: Forb/herb

Flowers: Bloom Period: June, July, August. • Flower Color: purple


Size: 4-6' tall.


Typically found at an altitude of 0 to 2,793 meters (0 to 9,163 feet).[2]


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Duration: Biennial


Culture: Space 24-36" apart.

Soil: Minimum pH: 6.6 • Maximum pH: 7.8

Sunlight: Sun Exposure: Full Sun .

Temperature: Cold Hardiness: 3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b. (map)


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Onopordum Acanthium Lato


Name Status: Accepted Name .

Comment: Data Providers: African Flowering Plants Database , SANBI, New Zealand Plant Name Database, Govaerts World Compositae Checklist A-G, IPNI, Flora of China Checklist, Tropicos, Euro+Med, Flora of Tasmania Online, Australian Capital Territory Census, New Sou. GCC LSID: urn

Last scrutiny: 14-Nov-09

Similar Species

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Members of the genus Onopordum

ZipcodeZoo has pages for 8 species, subspecies, varieties, forms, and cultivars in this genus:

O. acanthium (Cotton Thistle) · O. acanthium acanthium (Scotch Cotton Thistle) · O. acaulon (Stemless Thistle) · O. cinereum (Tuganis Kemulariela) · O. illyricum (Illyrian Cottonthistle) · O. nervosum (Moors Cotton-Thistle) · O. nogalesii (Cardo Borriquero) · O. tauricum (Bull Cottonthistle)

More Info

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Further Reading

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Data Sources

Accessed through GBIF Data Portal November 22, 2007:



  1. David J. Keil "Onopordum". in Flora of North America Vol. 19, 20 and 21 Page 57, 66, 83, 87, 96. Oxford University Press. Online at [back]
  2. Mean = 128.490 meters (421.555 feet), Standard Deviation = 175.370 based on 4,266 observations. Altitude information for each observation from British Oceanographic Data Centre. [back]
Last Revised: 2014-11-21