:"This article is about the plant, for other uses see Thistle (disambiguation)."

Thistle is the common name of a group of flowering plants characterised by leaves with sharp prickles on the margins, mostly in the plant family Asteraceae. Prickles often occur all over the plant - on surfaces such as those of the stem and flat parts of leaves. These are an adaptation to protect the plant against herbivorous animals, discouraging them from feeding on the plant. Typically, an involucre with a clasping shape of a cup or urn subtends each of a thistle's flowerheads.

The term thistle is sometimes taken to mean exactly those plants in the tribe Cynareae (synonym: Cardueae) [cite web | title = Cardueae (“thistles”) | work = Bio
] , especially the genera "Carduus", "Cirsium", and "Onopordum"cite web | work = Merriam-Webster's online dictionary | title = thistle | url = | accessdate = 2007-11-30] . However, plants outside this tribe are sometimes called thistles, and if this is done thistles would form a polyphyletic group.


Genera in the Asteraceae with the word thistle often used in their common names include:
*"Arctium" – Burdock
*"Carduus" – Musk Thistle and others
*"Carlina" – Carline Thistle
*"Centaurea" – Star Thistle
*"Cicerbita" – Sow Thistle
*"Cirsium" – Common Thistle, Field Thistle and others
*"Cnicus" – Blessed Thistle
*"Cynara" – Artichokes, Cardoon
*"Echinops" – Globethistle
*"Notobasis" – Syrian thistle
*"Onopordum" – Cotton Thistle, also known as Scots or Scotch Thistle
*"Scolymus" – Golden Thistle or Oyster Thistle
*"Silybum" – Milk Thistle
*"Sonchus" – Sow Thistle

Plants in families other than Asteraceae which are sometimes called thistle include:
*"Salsola" – Saltwort, Tumbleweed, or Russian Thistle (family Chenopodiaceae)


In the language of flowers, the thistle (like the burr) is an ancient Celtic symbol of nobility of character as well as of birth, for the wounding or provocation of a thistle yields punishment. For this reason the thistle is the symbol of the Order of the Thistle, a high chivalric order of Scotland.

Another story is that a Viking attacker stepped on one at night and cried out, so alerting the defenders of a Scottish castle.Cite web|url=|title=Scotch thistle|accessdate=2007-10-16|publisher=Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board] Whatever the justification, the national flower of Scotland is Scots Thistle, "Onopordum acanthium". It is found in many Scottish symbols and as the name of several Scottish football clubs.

Place names

"Carduus" is the Latin term for a thistle (hence cardoon), and "Cardonnacum" is the Latin word for a place with thistles. This is believed to be the origin of name of the Burgundy village of Chardonnay, Saône-et-Loire, which in turn is thought to be the home of the famous Chardonnay grape variety.


Thistle flowers, along with bugle and brambles flowers, are favourite nectar sources of the Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, High Brown Fritillary, and Dark Green Fritillary butterflies. [ [ Bracken for Butterflies] leaflet c0853 by Butterfly Conservation, January 2005]

Literary references

Hugh MacDiarmid's poem A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle is an extended meditation on themes which are in part derived from the position of the plant in secular Scottish iconography.

Notes and references

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Thistle — This tle, n. [OE. thistil, AS. [thorn]istel; akin to D. & G. distel, OHG. distila, distil, Icel. [thorn]istill, Sw. tistel, Dan. tidsel; of uncertain origin.] (Bot.) Any one of several prickly composite plants, especially those of the genera… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Thistle — Administration Pays …   Wikipédia en Français

  • thistle — [this′əl] n. [ME thistel < OE, akin to Ger distel < IE base * (s)teig , a point > STICK, Sans tiktá, sharp] any of various plants (as genera Onopordum, Cirsium, and Cnicus) of the composite family, with prickly leaves and heads of white …   English World dictionary

  • Thistle TV — Thistle Television was a locally broadcast commercial television station for Lanarkshire, Scotland. It broadcast a mixture of locally produced programmes and older films. It also showed 2 hours worth of Sky News every day as well as broadcasting… …   Wikipedia

  • thistle — prickly herbaceous plant, O.E. þistel, from P.Gmc. *thikhstula (Cf. O.H.G. distil, Ger. Distel, O.N. þistell, Dan. tidsel), of unknown origin. Emblem of Scotland since 15c …   Etymology dictionary

  • thistle — ► NOUN ▪ a plant with a prickly stem and leaves and rounded heads of purple flowers. ORIGIN Old English …   English terms dictionary

  • Thistle — SMY Meteor I (ex Thistle) Technische Daten (Überblick) Takelung: 1 Mast Rennkutter Segelklasse: Big Class Länge über alles (Lüa): 33,05 m …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • thistle — thistlelike, adj. /this euhl/, n. 1. any of various prickly, composite plants having showy, purple flower heads, esp. of the genera Cirsium, Carduus, or Onopordum. 2. any of various other prickly plants. [bef. 900; ME thistel, OE; c. D distel, G… …   Universalium

  • Thistle F.C. — Football club infobox clubname = Thistle fullname = Thistle Football Club nickname = founded = 1875 ground = Braehead Park capacity = chairman = manager = league = Scottish League season = position = pattern la1= white hoops|pattern b1=… …   Wikipedia

  • Thistle —    1) Heb. hoah (2 Kings 14:9; Job 31:40). In Job 41:2 the Hebrew word is rendered thorn, but in the Revised Version hook. It is also rendered thorn in 2 Chr. 33:11; Prov. 26:9; Cant. 2:2; brambles in Isa. 34:13. It is supposed to be a variety of …   Easton's Bible Dictionary

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