The Wildebeest's guide to South Africa

Scotch Thistle

Afrikaans name: Disseldoring

Scotch Thistle

Photo © Steven Herbert

Cirsium vulgare

The Scotch Thistle, also known as a Spear Thistle, is a well-known plant and is the national flower of Scotland. As most people know, it was introduced from the northern hemisphere, and it is not indigenous to South Africa. In fact, it is a highly invasive species, and it is illegal to grow them in this country.

Scotch Thistles have a rugged beauty about them. The attractive purple flowers emerge from spiky bracts and are around 3.5 cm in length. The flowers appear between September to July. The flowers have a large amount of nectar.

These plants can sometimes reach a height of 2 metres. The Scotch Thistle thrives in disturbed areas and can often be found along dirt roads, the perimeter of farmland and along pathways through the veld. These thistles are often caught up in hay bales which helps to spread the seed to new areas.

Livestock do not eat this plant so, in heavily grazed areas, it is normally the only plant left. In some countries the stems of young plants are boiled and eaten as is the tap root.

The genus Cirsium contains around 300 species, none of which are indigenous to South Africa. All these species are found in the northern hemisphere.

References and further reading

SA Wild Flower Guide No 6 - Karoo - Author: David Shearing & Katryn van Heerden - Published: 1997 - Page: 152

Wild About Johannesburg - Author: Duncan Butchart - Published: 1995 - Page: 113

A Field Guide to Wild Flowers in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Region - Author: Elsa Pooley - Published: 2005 - Page: 446

Illustrated Guide to the Wildflowers of Northern South Africa - Author: Gerrit Germishuizen & Brenda Clarke - Published: 2003 - Page: 185


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