Seeds usually germinate in the spring and fall. Do not leave cut stems of flowering bull thistle on the ground because they are likely to form viable seed after they are cut. Bull thistle spreads by seeds. Bull thistle may also dominate forest clear cuts and reduce growth of tree seedlings. Roots. Bull thistle plants are native to Western Asia, North America and parts of Europe. It is a free-seeding weed with a prickly demeanor and rapid spread. In order to reduce the seed population, cut off the seed head and tuck it into a sack to keep the fluffy seeds from dispersing. and get spread around with abandon. The species name, altissimum, means “the tallest.”It is a biennial with a tap root, not a rhizomatous root like some agressive, non-native thistles (i.e. Stems. This plant bears leaves that end in extended, very sharp thorns and are beige in colour. An individual plant can produce up to 100,000 seeds. Bull thistle reproduces only by seed. Weed Photos: Courtesy of Dr. Lambert McCarty. For widespread control, mowing twice per year has been effective in reducing the population by preventing seed heads. Seeds. Bull thistle is distasteful to most grazing animals, giving the thistle a competitive edge. The seeds are short‐lived and most on or near the soil surface do not remain viable for more than a year. A tough weed to kill, the flower heads on thistles possess thousands upon thousands of thistle seeds, which allows them to spread at an exponential rate both above and below the soil. Biennial thistles spread only by seed (achenes) that are produced in great number by all the noxious species, ran… Thistles are found throughout the United States and Canada. Other Info: Similar to Canadian thistle, the more robust bull thistle was introduced to the United States in the 1800’s from Europe and Asia, and has now spread to 42 states, being declared a noxious weed in 16. The plant has the ability to produce around 5,000 seeds in a season. Bull thistle is a biennial plant that can grow up to six feet tall. Herbicide Use. Cultivation and tilling can also be effective to control bull thistle. For more information, see Noxious Weed Lists and Laws or visit the website of the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board. Cirsium silvaticum Tausch. Also, goats and sheep have both been used for grazing management of bull thistle. Biological control: The bull thistle seed head gall fly (Urophora stylata) lays eggs on closed flower buds in June and July. Even horses will help by picking out many of the nectar-rish flowers and eating them before they go to seed. Weedy characteristics: Bull thistle is highly competitive and aggressive, and forms dense colonies that choke out native vegetation important to wildlife and pollinators. Each plant has a fleshy taproot. Bull thistle seed production is impacted by the seedhead gall fly, Urophora stylata. Bull thistle thrives in sunny areas in a variety of soil types and conditions. Bull thistle control can be manual or chemical with an emphasis on seed control. Prevention: Bull thistle only reproduces by seed so prevention of seeding and takign care not to spread seeds are key to preventing new infestations. Carduus nemoralis E.H.L.Krause. In agricultural situations, the introduction of a bull thistle seed head gall fly has been proposed as a biological agent. Clemson University. Seed/ Fruit Size: The cleaned seed itself (no pappus) is about 3/16 inch wide (2 mm) and 13/32 inch long (4 mm) and reminds me of a banana pepper in shape. See the biological control page for more information. Digging the plant out with a spade or hori hori is the best approach to mechanical bull thistle control. Bull thistle can reach a height of 3 feet. Additionally, native thistles are noticeably less prickly than weedy, non-native thistles, like bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare) or Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense). Thistle is the common name of a group of flowering plants characterised by leaves with sharp prickles on the margins, mostly in the family Asteraceae.Prickles can also occur all over the plant – on the stem and on the flat parts of the leaves. These attach themselves to any object that brushes against them. It is a prickly biennial that grows freely in disturbed soils, pastures, ditches, roadsides and unmanaged spaces. Most King County offices will be closed on December 25, for Christmas Day. Bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare) is a plant that is related to the sunflower family but has none of the charm and beauty of those sunny-nodding flower heads. Biennial thistles, such as musk (Carduus nutans L.), plumeless (Carduus acanthoides L.) and bull thistle [Cirsium vulgare (Savi) Tenore], are not as difficult to control as the perennial thistle species, but spread rapidly and can become severe problems in some areas. The roots of this plant are taproots. Wildflowers Of WisconsinWild… The white pappus “parachute”or “hair”, is about ¾ inch long (20+ mm). Mowing can be effective, but make sure the plants do not flower. This thistle plant I’m testing is a bull thistle, and the spines are huge and rigid. 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Mechanical control: Mowed thistles will produce new branches from basal buds but close cutting or cutting twice per season will usually prevent seed production and reduce the population over time. The next emerging leaves … Cirsium vulgare, the spear thistle, bull thistle, or common thistle, is a species of the Asteraceae genus Cirsium, native throughout most of Europe (north to 66°N, locally 68°N), Western Asia (east to the Yenisei Valley), and northwestern Africa ( Atlas Mountains ). All biennial thistles considered noxious are native to Europe or Eurasia, and were introduced into North America as seed contaminants. The early leaves of its young plant are also oval with a spine-like fringe. What's more, one individual plant can produce up to 5,000 seeds, making it quite prolific. As the stem gets thicker, the wings start drying and disappearing. If your site has animals grazing, please read instructions carefully on grazing restrictions. A common type of weed most homeowners and gardeners hate to see sprouting up on their turf is thistle. The goldfinch is particularly attracted to the thistle. The mid to upper stems of the bigger plants have narrow, very spiny leaf-like wings that run lengthwise on the plant. Read about the presence and treatment of bull thistle after the 2012 Reading Fire. The plant has colonized much of North America and is a pest plant in the garden and in agriculture. Note: Chemical control should only be used as a last resort, as organic approaches are more environmentally friendly. The second true leaf is dark green and covered densely with white hairs on the upper surface. In summer the plant grows a scented flower that resembles a spiny globe topped with fringed pink petals. The types of sprays used in agricultural scenarios are dicamba, glyphosate or 2,4D. Of course, your battle with the plant will only be as effective as your neighbors because of the travel ability of the downy seeds. …and without the pappus. Seeds usu-ally germinate in the spring and fall and have a 95% germination rate. Seeds buried at a depth of 5 inches may remain viable for up to three years. What is bull thistle? Bull thistle - Cirsium vulgare or Canada thistle - Cirsium arvense).As a biennial it reaches flowering stage in year 2 before dying off. Nyjer seed also commonly known as niger or thistle seed is popular with many backyard bird species, particularly seed-eating birds and winter finches. A single field thistle seed with pappus. The outer rim of the flower is green and spiny itself, and contains many disk shaped flowers that are reddish-purple. Those flies lay eggs in developing bull thistle flower buds. Seeds on the surface typically do not survive for more than a year; seeds buried may remain viable for up to three years. Seeds remain viable in the soil for up to 10 years. Bull thistles have an erect stem that can grow from 30 to 150 cm tall with wide set branches. It has a central taproot so does not spread by rhizomes. Encourage bull thistle seed-head gall flies to live and breed on bull thistle plants. Red to purple, usually solitary flower heads consisting of only disk flowers are … Reproduction is performed only through the seeds. They grow from seed the first season as a rosette (a taproot with a cluster of leaves on the soil surface). In this video, I show you how to identify Bull Thistle Seeds in the Fall. This gall fly’s larvae induce and feed on gall tissue in the developing bull thistle seedhead, reducing seed production up to 60%. Coarse hairs of bull thistle (right). Prevention: Bull thistle only reproduces by seed so prevention of seeding and takign care not to spread seeds are key to preventing new infestations. Bull thistle seeds are numerous and straw-colored. When roasted, the thistle's seeds serve as a coffee substitute. On smaller plants, the whole stem and branches are spiny-winged. Thistle seed bird food is great for year-round feeding. (When we first moved here, the place was overrun with thistles. Musk thistle and bull thistle are biennials causing major problems in perennial grass crops including pastures, roadsides, conservation reserve and fence rows. Bull thistle grows in disturbed areas such as pastures, roadsides and ditches. However, it has been shown to have limited effectiveness. For grassy areas, it is best to use a selective broadleaf herbicide to keep the competitive grasses intact. The Bull thistle also provides seeds to granivores (consumers of grains and seeds) such as goldfinches. Overgrazed pastures are susceptible to bull thistle encroachment, and it can sometimes form dense stands that reduce productivity and stocking levels. Seeds germinate rapidly and are spread by wind. The main stem of this wild edible is firm and thorny. This insect will not get rid of the bull thistle, however, just reduce its impact. Flowers and fruit. For this reason, bull thistle removal is a priority among farmers and meticulous gardeners. Bull thistle rosette (left). Around here it’s not too hard to find a thistle plant, and our main variety is common Bull Thistle (Cirsium vulgare). If the bull thistle population is large enough to support a good sized population of this insect, it can be an effective way to reduce seed production of the bull thistle. https://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/forb/cirvul/all.html Bull thistle plants can produce approximately 7000 seeds. Clemson, SC. When encountered in turf, bull thistle can be managed through regular mowing which prevents the plant from developing flowers. This thistle produces a lot of seeds that have small feathers and are fixed to the base by means of a ring until they mature. The plant has colonized much of North America and is a pest plant in the garden and in agriculture. The Bull thistle was used by early humans as a warm medicinal tea. Most seeds germinate rapidly, usually in the spring and fall. Bull thistles are biennial and only bloom every two years. Spiny-winged, hairy stems elongate during the second year, often branched up to 7 feet tall. Seeds spread by wind and have high dispersal rates. To contact staff, see the Noxious Weed Control Program Directory, send an email, or call 206-477-WEED (206-477-9333). Bull thistle reproduces only by seed, and indi-vidual plants set seed only once before dying. Pull thistles before they bloom so their seeds don't spread in the wind. The bull thistle is a biennially growing plant. The leaves of a bull thistle are large, woody and are flatted and basal rosette during their firs… Large individuals may produce tens of thousands of wind-dispersed seeds. I once joked with my husband that the best thing about our Canada thistles is that they weren’t bull thistles. Cultural/grazing: Bull thistle is not as competitive in a well-managed pasture and regular cutting combined with good pasture management can reduce bull thistle to a manageable level. Again, that big Bull Thistle on the Hilton Pond Center roadside formed 50-plus flower heads--each capable of producing 250 seeds--meaning just that individual plant is theoretically capable of disseminating 12,000 seeds! principle to bull thistle control is preventing seed production. Cutting off only the flower stalks will merely make the plant sprout another shoot; also, cut flower stalks left on the ground are likely to produce viable seeds, even after they are cut. The flowers are produced at the ends of the tangled stem growth and last for several weeks before producing tiny striped seeds capped with white downy hairs. Comparatively, Canada thistle is a perennial that reproduces through underground rhizomes and wind-blown seeds. Seedling: Cotyledons of the bull thistle are oval-shaped, being broadest at the apex. Learn how to get rid of bull thistle and prevent this prolific weed from taking over your garden. After hatching, the larvae burrow into the seed-prodcuing tissues to feed, forming galls and reducing seed production. The hairy, prickly leaves overwinter to develop stems and branches of up to 2 feet in spring. Bull thistles (Cirsium vulgare) are exactly that – bullish. It has a deep taproot, which makes manual pulling a challenge. After spraying, wait two weeks or more to give the herbicide time to work. The flowers are located at the end of stems covered in spiny hairs. Sign up to get all the latest gardening tips! Bull thistle control can be manual or chemical with an emphasis on seed co… Melissa King began writing in 2001. We can provide advice on how to control bull thistle, but there is generally no legal requirement to do so. It is a prickly biennial that grows freely in disturbed soils, pastures, ditches, roadsides and unmanaged spaces. Bull thistle can be controlled most effectively by cutting the root several inches below the ground. Thistles that are actively growing and in the rosette to flower stage of growth can be controlled with a post-emergence herbicide application. Chemical treatment is most effective on the first year rosettes of bull thistle plants. In addition to attracting finches, it also attracts chickadees, siskins, and other small songbirds. Public and private landowners are not required to control infestations of bull thistle that occur on their property in King County. They are dispersed by wind. These bur-like seeds cling to animals, pant legs, machinery, etc. There is also a weevil that is an effective control agent, but it can also affect desired thistle species. The seeds survive in soil for more than 10 years. Flower Seed Head. Milk thistle has a mild flavor that turns bitter as the plant matures. The seed of bull thistle remains viable for only a few years, but structures similar to those on dandelion seeds enable new bull thistles to drift downwind into the park. As mentioned earlier, they thrive in disturbed soils.) Though bull thistle is difficult to contain, frequent mowing before it flowers can help keep it … Not only does the goldfinch pull the seeds out to eat; it also uses the thistle down (the pappus) to line its nest. Contaminated hay is a primary means of spread of this species so be careful to purchase weed free hay or watch closely for new plants in the areas hay is kept or spread. Remove stems from site if plants are cut or pulled with flowers. If only one cutting a year is possible, cut when plants are in bud for best results. The seeds are one tenth to two tenths of an inch long, with plume-like bristles on the tip. Bull thistle is a Class C Noxious Weed in Washington, first listed in 1988. Chemical control: For information on herbicides and recommendations for control, please see the Pacific Northwest Weed Management Handbook. Bull thistle might be confused with native thistles as well as more serious noxious weeds such as milk thistle, a Class A noxious weed in Washington, and Canada thistle, a Class C noxious weed that is much more difficult to control. By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist. Harvest Pennington Premium Thistle (Nyjer) Bird Seed is the single best seed for attracting colorful finches, including Goldfinches. Take care to remove the entire fleshy taproot for best results. The stubborn plant can arise like Lazarus from the ashes if hand pulling leaves behind any of the root. More more effective control, cut plants with a sharp shovel at 1-2 inches below the soil surface prior to flowering. Bull thistle prefers sunny, open areas and can tolerate a wide range of conditions, from moist to dry soils, and is typically found in disturbed areas such as roadsides, trails, logged areas, vacant land, pastures and cultivated land. Contaminated hay is a primary means of spread of this species so be careful to purchase weed free hay or watch closely for new plants in the areas hay is kept or spread. Casual removal with this method is likely to leave behind the genesis of a plant in spite of the foliar amputation. If cut too early before flowering, plants may re-sprout and flower again that season. Pasture Thistle, also called Field Thistle, is a biennial or short-lived perennial. Knowing which birds eat Nyjer can help birders choose the best birdseed and appropriate feeders for their backyard flock. Biennials require portions of two growing seasons to reproduce. Program offices are located at 201 S. Jackson St., Suite 600, Seattle, WA 98104. Soil disturbance can stimulate germination and a flush of new plants. There are several herbicides that are effective on bull thistle, but it is important to carefully match the product with your site, local conditions and regulations, and other weed and land management issues, and always follow the label directions for the product you are using. Writer Bio. Bull thistle starts life as a spiny leaved rosette. It's no wonder this species might take over a pasture in a few short years. Because bull thistle is so widespread, property owners in King County are not required to control it and we are not generally tracking infestations. Caution: Plants have spines along leaves and stems. Because control is not required in the county, it is on the list of Non-Regulated Noxious Weeds for King County. Find more gardening information on Gardening Know How: Keep up to date with all that's happening in and around the garden. Become a certified small business contractor or supplier, Find certified small business contractors and suppliers, Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board, Pacific Northwest Weed Management Handbook, King County bull thistle best management practices, University of Washington Burke Museum Herbarium Image Collection - Cirsium vulgare, Branching, erect biennial, 2 to 6 feet tall, Rosettes form in first year, flowering stems the second, Long, sharp spines on the leaves at the midrib and the tips of the lobes, Leaves are deeply lobed and hairy - there are coarse hairs on leaf tops, making leaf feel rough to the touch, and woolly hairs on the underside, Leaf bases extend down onto stems and form spiny wings along the stems, Flower heads are "gumdrop" shaped and spines extend all around the base of the flower heads.
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