Welted Thistle - Carduus crispus


Tall hairy plant to 2 metres, stems branched and spiny winged, except just below the flowerheads. Leaves oblong to lanceolate, pinnately lobed, weak spined. Flowerheads reddish purple, 10 to 25 mm erect, solitary or in small clusters. Flower bracts slightly spreading or erect with a weak spine tip.

Similar Species

Carduus tenuiflorus.  Creeping Thistle or Marsh Thistle can look similar - check the pappus hairs if in doubt.

Identification difficulty
ID guidance

As with all Carduus, the pappus-hairs (the silky white hairs attached to the seed - the thistledown) are not feathery or branched, but simple.  The stems have spiny wings, continuous all the way to just below the flower-head.  C tenuiflorus has a narrow, almost cylindrical flowerhead; C crispus is rounded.

Recording advice

A photograph of the whole plant, including stem as well as flower heads.


Often damp grassland, stream sides.

When to see it

June to August.

Life History


UK Status

Widespread and common in lowland Britain north to the Moray Firth.

VC55 Status

Very common in Leicestershire and Rutland. In the 1979 Flora survey of Leicestershire it was found in 604 of the 617 tetrads.

Leicestershire & Rutland Map


Yellow squares = NBN records (all known data)
Coloured circles = NatureSpot records: 2020+ | 2015-2019 | pre-2015

UK Map