Carlina vulgaris - Carline Thistle

Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Equisetopsida - Order: Asterales - Family: Asteraceae

Carline Thistle Carlina vulgaris

The flowers of carline thistles, of which there are several, appear to be 'dead' even when they are young and fresh. Common Carline Thistle often produces stately, photogenic plants


Common Carline Thistle is a spiny biennial plant with distinctive brown and gold daisy-like flower heads. The oblong leaves, which clasp the stems, have wavy, spined margins. The stems are topped either one flower head or more often a cluster of composite flower heads.

Carline Thistle plant in flower


In Britain the Common Carline Thistle is moderately abundant but localised throughout most of England and Wales; in Scotland it is a much rarer find and mainly confined to coastal areas. This species is native to Europe, North Africa and Asia.

Carline Thistle seedheads

Above: Carline Thistle seed heads


Carline Thistle grows on dry alkaline grassland as well as on heathland and moorland.

Blooming Times

In Britain and Ireland Carline Thistle flowers can be seen from July to September. The dead flower heads often persist into the following spring.


A wide range of insects, including bees and particularly butterflies, appear to be very fond of the flowers of Carline Thistle. On chalk downland this wildflower is a source of nectar for many kinds of butterflies including the Brimstone, Chalkhill blue, Gatekeeper, Marbled White, Dark-green Fritillary and the recently reintroduced Large Blue.


Carlina, the genus name, honors the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (1500 - 1558), or Charlemagne, who legend has it used this plant to cure his army of the plague. The specific epithet vulgaris comes from Latin and means 'common'.

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