Texas Thistle

Biological Name:

Cirsium texanum (Texas-Thistle)

Natural Habitat:

Texas-Thistle: Typically found in a variety of habitats, including fields and roadsides, in the southern United States.


Texas-Thistle also known as Cirsium is a plant that is native to grassland and prairie regions of North America. It is a biennial herb that can grow up to six feet tall and it has small oval-shaped leaves and small purple or white flowers that bloom in the summer. The plant is known for its large spiny leaves and stems and it is often found in disturbed or degraded habitats.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Is Texas thistle edible?
A: Texas thistle is an abundant nectar source for bees, particularly bumblebees. It can be found blooming April-August, and is also edible.

Q: What happens if you eat thistle?
A: Plants frequently grow to five feet tall and prefer plenty of sun. In addition to the root, the stems are edible, when peeled. However, the thistle contains inulin, which gives some people digestive issues.

Q: Are thistles good for anything?
A: Like many plants in the thistle clade of the botanical family Asteraceae, bull thistles provide ample pollen and nectar resources for butterflies, honeybees, hummingbirds, and beneficial insects like green lacewings. Birds like goldfinches and juncos love their seeds, as do white-tailed deer and rabbits.

Q: Can humans eat thistle seed?
A: You can eat all parts of thistle – root, stem, leaves, flowers, seeds.

Q: What is Texas thistle good for?
A: Conditions Comments: Commonly recognized for its flower, Texas thistle is a drought tolerant species that blooms in early summer. The flower is a good nectar source for pollinators. Let the flower progress to seed, providing food for birds.

Q: Why is thistle a problem?
A: They have become major problems in agricultural landscapes and 22 states have designated them as noxious weeds. Thistles do attract pollinators and birds, but the spiny leaves and stems keep grazers away. Some thistles release chemicals into the soil that inhibit the growth of other plants.

Q: Is thistle poisonous to humans?
A: Health Risks: Entire plant is highly toxic to humans and livestock, causing vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory issues, and spasms.

Q: Are thistle weeds good for anything?
A: Thistle is a very beneficial plant for pollinators. Bees, flies, beetles, and butterflies all like the nectar of the thistle flowers. We have these all over our yard here in Maine.

Q: How do you eat Texas thistle?
A: How: peel stem then eat raw or cooked; tea from leaves, stem; roots are boiled; large center leaf ribs are stripped from leaf and eaten raw.

Q: Why is bull thistle a problem?
A: Why is bull thistle a problem? Bull thistle outcompetes native plants and desir- able wildlife. It invades most disturbed habitats such as pastures, roadsides and ditch banks, and grows in dense thickets. Bull thistle is an economic threat by reducing hay quality.

Q: Is bull thistle poisonous to humans?
A: Bull thistle is moderately toxic. Its seedlings are edible after cooking, but it contains oxalic acid, which can be toxic if eaten for a long time. Its flowers are gorgeous and its fruits are striking.

Q: Do thistles grow in Texas?
A: Thistles are common in dry or moist soils throughout Texas. They thrive in disturbed or overgrazed areas, prairies, abandoned fields, and along roadsides.

Q: What eats Texas thistle?
A: The nectar of the Texas Thistle is ex- tremely attractive to honey bees, native bees like bumble- bees, and butterflies. The larvae of the Painted Lady Butterfly feed on the leaves. Goldfinch eat the seeds, even prefer- ring them to seed available commercial- ly for thistle feeders.

Q: Why are thistles a problem?
A: Thistles are prolific seeders and can spread quickly if not controlled. Once established thistles are difficult and expensive to control. Dense thistle populations can reduce property values. species.

Q: What kills Texas thistle?
A: Among myriad available weed sprays, glyphosate proves to be effective on thistle. Apply to individual cut stems an inch or two above the soil line, taking careful aim of the weed sprayer to avoid contact with desirable plants. Reapplication in several weeks may be needed for well-established thistle.

Q: Is it illegal to have thistles in your garden?
A: It is unlawful to allow the following harmful weeds, listed in the Weeds Act 1959, to spread onto agricultural land: Common ragwort, spear thistle, broad-leaved dock, curled dock, and creeping field thistle. Under section 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it is an offence to plant or grow Japanese Knotweed.

Q: Is thistle plant invasive?
A: Bull, musk, plumeless, and Scotch thistles are annual and biennial nonnative plants in the sunflower family that are considered invasive. Plumeless and Scotch thistles are listed as noxious weeds in both Arizona and New Mexico.

Q: Why do thistles cause problems for farmers?
A: Agricultural and economic impacts Star thistle competes with desirable species in crops and pastures. The large rosettes shade out other species and compete for nutrients. The weed can greatly deplete soil moisture. The plants also produce allelopathic compounds which inhibit the growth of other species.

Q: Does purple thistle grow in Texas?
A: The other purple thistle is the Texas thistle (Cirsium texanum), a spiny biennial or perennial native to the states of Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri. Even though it is native to the United States it obviously is not as well traveled nor has it been as offensive as the musk thistle.

Q: Why is tumbleweed called Russian thistle?
A: It is a summer annual native to southeastern Russia and western Siberia and was first introduced into the United States in 1873 by Russian immigrants as a contaminant in flax seed in South Dakota.

Q: Is Russian thistle in Texas?
A: By the turn of the 20th century, it may have reached California and Texas. The U.S. Department of Agriculture had already relegated “Russian thistle” to its list of noxious weeds. In the Texas Panhandle the plant’s spread may have been fueled by the wheat immigration at the turn of the 20th century.

About the author

Samuel is a gardening professional and enthusiast who has spent over 20 years advising homeowners and farm owners on weed identification, prevention and removal. He has an undergraduate degree in plant and soil science from Michigan State University.