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Overview

Brief Summary

History in the United States

Canada thistle was introduced to the United States, probably by accident, in the early 1600s and, by 1954, had been declared a noxious weed in forty three states. In Canada and the U.S., it is considered one of the most tenacious and economically important agricultural weeds, but only in recent years has it been recognized as a problem in natural areas.

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History in the United States

Canada thistle was accidentally introduced to North America in the 1600s and is designated as a noxious weed in 43 states.

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Distribution

More info for the terms: natural, swale

Canada thistle is native to southeastern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean area, and was probably introduced to North America in the 1600s as a contaminant of crop seed and/or ship's ballast [152]. It is probably the most widespread of all thistle species [152]. In addition to North America, Canada thistle is invasive in northern and southern Africa, the Middle East, Japan, India, New Zealand, Australia, and South America. It infests at least 27 crops in 37 countries and thrives in temperate regions of the northern hemisphere [146]. In North America, Canada thistle occurs from Alaska east to the Northwest Territories, Quebec, and Newfoundland and south to California, New Mexico, Kansas, Arkansas, and North Carolina [107]. The PLANTS database provides a map of Canada thistle's distribution in the United States.

Canada thistle has been identified as a management problem in many national parks and on The Nature Conservancy preserves in the upper Midwest, the Great Plains states, and the Pacific Northwest [214]. It is an invader in Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado [67], Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming [4,48,218], Wood Buffalo National Park, Northwest Territories, Canada [83,237], Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota [32], and the Camas Swale Research Natural Area in the Willamette Valley, Oregon [43].

Although Canada thistle is not usually found in undisturbed forested areas, it has the potential to colonize a wide variety of forest habitats within its range following overstory removal and soil disturbance. The following listings take this potential into account.

  • 4. Allen, Karen; Hansen, Katherine. 1999. Geography of exotic plants adjacent to campgrounds, Yellowstone National Park, USA. The Great Basin Naturalist. 59(4): 315-322. [33975]
  • 32. Butler, Jack L.; Einhellig, Frank A. 1991. Exotic plants in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. In: Plumb, Glenn E., ed. University of Wyoming: National Park Service Research Center 15th annual report 1991. Laramie, WY: University of Wyoming: 211-215. [29957]
  • 43. Curtis, Alan B. 1986. Camas Swale Research Natural Area. Supplement No. 21 to: Franklin, Jerry F.; Hall, Frederick C.; Dyrness, C. T.; Maser, Chris, eds. Federal Research Natural Areas in Oregon and Washington: A guidebook for scientists and educators. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest and Range Experiment Station. 18 p. [226]
  • 48. Despain, Don G. 1990. Yellowstone vegetation: Consequences of environment and history in a natural setting. Boulder, CO: Roberts Rinehart, Inc. 239 p. [19374]
  • 67. Floyd-Hanna, Lisa; Romme, William; Kendall, Deborah; Colyer, Marilyn. 1993. Succession and biological invasion at Mesa Verde NP. Park Science. 13(4): 16-18. [22580]
  • 146. Mitich, Larry W. 1988. Thistles I: Cirsium and Carduus. Weed Technology. 2: 228-229. [5507]
  • 152. Morishita, Don W. 1999. Canada thistle. In: Sheley, Roger L.; Petroff, Janet K., eds. Biology and management of noxious rangeland weeds. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University Press: 162-174. [35719]
  • 237. Wein, Ross W.; Wein, Gerold; Bahret, Sieglinde; Cody, William J. 1992. Northward invading non-native vascular plant species in and adjacent to Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada. Canadian Field-Naturalist. 106(2): 216-224. [24014]
  • 83. Haber, Erich. 1997. Fact sheet no. 8--Canada thistle. In: Invasive plants of Canada: Guide to species and methods of control, [Online]. Available: http://infoweb.magi.com/~keyw CIRARV, DISTRIB, MORPHOLOGY, AUTECOLOGY, IPM,. [37487]
  • 107. Kartesz, John T. 1999. A synonymized checklist and atlas with biological attributes for the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 1st ed. In: Kartesz, John T.; Meacham, Christopher A. Synthesis of the North American flora (Windows Version 1.0), [CD-ROM]. Chapel Hill, NC: North Carolina Botanical Garden (Producer). In cooperation with: The Nature Conservancy; U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service; U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. [36715]
  • 214. Thundorst, Gwendolyn; Swearingen, Jil M. 2001. In: Weeds gone wild: Alien plant invaders of natural areas, [Online]. Available: http://www.nps.gov/plants.alien/fact/ciar1.htm [2001, May 23]. [37490]
  • 218. Turner, Monica G.; Romme, William H.; Gardner, Robert H. 1994. Relationships between spatial heterogeneity and large-scale fires on subalpine plateaus in Yellowstone National Park. In: Despain, Don G., editor. Plants and their environments: proceedings of the 1st biennial scientific conference on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem; 1991 September 16-17; Yellowstone National Park. Tech. Rep. NPS/NRYELL/NRTR-93/XX. Denver, CO: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Rocky Mountain Region, Yellowstone National Park: 345-347. [Abstract]. [26301]

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Range and Habitat in Illinois

Canada Thistle is a common plant that occurs primarily in central and northern Illinois (see Distribution Map). It is apparently less common or absent from many areas of southern Illinois, although it could be spreading southward. Contrary to the common name, this plant is originally from Eurasia. Typical habitats include cropland, abandoned fields, areas along roads and railroads, vacant lots, weedy meadows, and degraded prairies. This plant can invade lawns that are not mowed regularly, and it is aggressive enough to invade many natural habitats.
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Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Regional Distribution in the Western United States

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This species can be found in the following regions of the western United States (according to the Bureau of Land Management classification of Physiographic Regions of the western United States):

BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS [18]:

1 Northern Pacific Border

2 Cascade Mountains

3 Southern Pacific Border

4 Sierra Mountains

5 Columbia Plateau

6 Upper Basin and Range

8 Northern Rocky Mountains

9 Middle Rocky Mountains

10 Wyoming Basin

11 Southern Rocky Mountains

12 Colorado Plateau

13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont

14 Great Plains

15 Black Hills Uplift

16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands>
  • 18. Bernard, Stephen R.; Brown, Kenneth F. 1977. Distribution of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians by BLM physiographic regions and A.W. Kuchler's associations for the eleven western states. Tech. Note 301. Denver, CO: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. 169 p. [434]

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Occurrence in North America



AKAZARCACOCTDEID
ILINIAKSKYMEMDMA
MIMNMOMTNENVNHNJ
NMNYNCNDOHORPARI
SDTNUTVTVAWAWVWI
WYDC

ABBCMBNBNFNTNSNU
ONPEPQSKYK

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Distribution in the United States

Canada thistle is distributed throughout the northern U.S., from northern California to Maine and southward to Virginia. It is also found in Canada, for which it was named. Canada thistle has been identified as a management problem on many national parks and on preserves of The Nature Conservancy in the upper Midwest, Plains states, and the Pacific northwest.

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Native Range

Temperate regions of Eurasia
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Distribution and Habitat in the United States

Canada thistle is an extremely widespread weed of agricultural and ecological areas in the U.S, occurring throughout the northern states and Southwest but is largely absent in the South from Texas to Georgia. Twenty large national parks across the country report it as a serious invasive plant affecting natural resources. It invades a variety of dry to moist open habitats including barrens, fields, glades, grasslands, pastures, stream banks, wet meadows, wet prairies, and open forests. It is not very tolerant of shade.

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Origin

Europe and Asia

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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Carduus arvensis (L.) Robson:
United States (North America)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Cirsium arvense var. arvense :
Afghanistan (Asia)
India (Asia)
Kazakhstan (Asia)
Nepal (Asia)
United States (North America)
China (Asia)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Cirsium setosum (Willd.) M. Bieb.:
Japan (Asia)
Mongolia (Asia)
Russian Federation (Asia)
South Korea (Asia)
China (Asia)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Cirsium arvense var. mite Wimm. & Grab.:
United States (North America)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Cirsium arvense var. integrifolium Wimm. & Grab.:
Canada (North America)
Japan (Asia)
Mongolia (Asia)
North Korea (Asia)
Russian Federation (Asia)
South Korea (Asia)
United States (North America)
China (Asia)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Cirsium arvense var. horridum Wimm. & Grab.:
United States (North America)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Cirsium arvense var. vestitum Wimm. & Grab.:
Kazakhstan (Asia)
United States (North America)
China (Asia)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Cirsium incanum (S.G. Gmel.) Fisch. ex M. Bieb.:
Russian Federation (Asia)
China (Asia)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Europe, Asia, introduced in N. America.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

More info for the terms: adventitious, allelopathy, dioecious, forb, fresh, pappus

Canada thistle is a perennial introduced forb. It is distinguished from other thistles by creeping horizontal lateral roots, dense clonal growth, and dioecious habit [49,121,240]. Descriptions and terminology of Canada thistle biology can be confusing or contradictory. For example, descriptions of leaf morphology, stem height, and number of flowering heads may differ somewhat between floras. The following discussion provides ranges of what may be encountered for these characteristics, which will vary under different field conditions. Donald [55] and Moore [150] provide comprehensive reviews of the biology of Canada thistle.

Canada thistle has a deep and wide-spreading root system with a slender taproot and far-creeping lateral roots. It often forms large patches, and individual clones may reach 115 feet (35 m) in diameter [55,75,126,186,248]. Most Canada thistle roots are in the top 0.7 to 2 feet (0.2-0.6 m) of soil, but roots can extend as deep as 6.5 to 22 feet (2-6.75 m) [113,152,157]. Carbohydrate reserves are stored in roots and can range from 3% of root fresh weight during spring to as high as 26% in late fall [137]. Roots are injured when directly exposed to freezing temperatures for 2 hours at -5 °C and killed after 2 hours at -7 °C [192]. Arbuscular mycorrhizal infection of Canada thistle roots has been observed in several studies [17,50,116]. Canada thistle does not form rhizomes, despite this assertion in some literature. Adventitious root buds that may form new adventitious shoots can develop along the root at any location, and at any time of the year with favorable growing conditions [55,85]. New plants can also form from root fragments as short as 0.2 inch (6 mm) [157]. Soil type, structure and horizonation may impact the anatomy, morphology and distribution of Canada thistle roots as well. This suggests that root morphology and distribution are site specific and greenhouse studies of root morphology may not apply [55].

Canada thistle has slender aerial shoots with leafy stems reaching 1 to 6.5 feet (0.3-2 m) tall [42,81,84,176,238]. Leaves are 1.2 to 7 inches (3-18 cm) long and 0.2 to 2.4 inches (0.5-6 cm) wide [81,134,238]. Canada thistle leaf morphology (texture, hairiness, lobing and spininess) can vary considerably, even within a geographical region [84,150]. Canada thistle has numerous aboveground branches that bear several, small flowerheads (0.4 to 0.75 inch (1-2 cm) in diameter) in clusters [49,81,121,126,176,240]. Seeds are 0.09 to 0.2 inch (2.4-5 mm) long, and 0.04 inch (1 mm) in diameter with a pappus of feathery bristles [42,75,176,238,240].

While allelopathy has not been conclusively demonstrated for Canada thistle, this species may produce phytotoxins that inhibit the growth of other plants [55,203]. Fructan metabolism in Canada thistle adds to its competitive advantages by allowing it to grow at relatively cool temperatures [37].

  • 17. Berch, Shannon M.; Gamiet, Sharmin; Deom, Elisabeth. 1988. Mycorrhizal status of some plants of southwestern British Columbia. Canadian Journal of Botany. 66: 1924-1928. [8841]
  • 37. Chatterton, N. Jerry. 1994. Fructan metabolism and cool-temperature growth in cheatgrass. In: Monsen, Stephen B.; Kitchen, Stanley G., compilers. Proceedings--ecology and management of annual rangelands; 1992 May 18-22; Boise, ID. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-GTR-313. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station: 333-336. [24305]
  • 42. Cronquist, Arthur; Holmgren, Arthur H.; Holmgren, Noel H.; Reveal, James L.; Holmgren, Patricia K. 1994. Intermountain flora: Vascular plants of the Intermountain West, U.S.A. Vol. 5: Asterales. New York: The New York Botanical Garden. 496 p. [28653]
  • 49. Dewey, Steven A. 1991. Weedy thistles of the western United States. In: James, Lynn F.; Evans, John O.; Ralphs, Michael H.; Child, R. Dennis, eds. Noxious range weeds. Westview Special Studies in Agricultural Science and Policy. Boulder, CO: Westview Press: 247-253. [23552]
  • 50. Dhillion, Shivcharn S.; Friese, Carl F. 1994. The occurrence of mycorrhizas in prairies: application to ecological restoration. In: Wickett, Robert G.; Lewis, Patricia Dolan; Woodliffe, Allen; Pratt, Paul, eds. Spirit of the land, our prairie legacy: Proceedings, 13th North American prairie conference; 1992 August 6-9; Windsor, ON. Windsor, ON: Department of Parks and Recreation: 103-114. [24682]
  • 55. Donald, William W. 1994. The biology of Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense). Reviews of Weed Science. 6: 77-101. [37298]
  • 75. Gleason, Henry A.; Cronquist, Arthur. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. 2nd ed. New York: New York Botanical Garden. 910 p. [20329]
  • 81. Great Plains Flora Association. 1986. Flora of the Great Plains. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. 1392 p. [1603]
  • 84. Haderlie, Lloyd C.; Dewey, Steve; Kidder, Dan. 1987. Canada thistle: Biology and control. Bulletin No. 666. Moscow, ID: University of Idaho, College of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service. 7 p. [6100]
  • 85. Haderlie, Lloyd C.; McAllister, Ray S.; Hoefer, Ray H.; Leino, Phil W. 1991. Canada thistle control. In: James, Lynn F.; Evans, John O.; Child, R. Dennis, eds. Noxious range weeds. Westview Special Studies in Agricultural Science and Policy. Boulder, CO: Westview Press: 260-263. [37276]
  • 113. Kiltz, B. F. 1930. Perennial weeds which spread vegetatively. Journal of the American Society of Agronomy. 22(3): 216-234. [25191]
  • 116. Kovacic, D. A.; St. John, T. V.; Dyer, M. I. 1984. Lack of vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal inoculum in a ponderosa pine forest. Ecology. 65(6): 1755-1759. [5776]
  • 121. Lackschewitz, Klaus. 1991. Vascular plants of west-central Montana--identification guidebook. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-227. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station. 648 p. [13798]
  • 134. Martin, William C.; Hutchins, Charles R. 1981. A flora of New Mexico. Volume 2. Germany: J. Cramer. 2589 p. [37176]
  • 137. McAllister, Ray S.; Haderlie, LLoyd C. 1985. Seasonal variations in Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) root bud growth and root carbohydrate reserves. Weed Science. 33: 44-49. [1563]
  • 150. Moore, R. J. 1975. The biology of Canadian weeds. 13. Cirsium arvense (L.) Scop. Canadian Journal of Plant Science. 55(4): 1033-1048. [37311]
  • 152. Morishita, Don W. 1999. Canada thistle. In: Sheley, Roger L.; Petroff, Janet K., eds. Biology and management of noxious rangeland weeds. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University Press: 162-174. [35719]
  • 157. Nadeau, L. B.; Vanden Born, W. H. 1989. The root system of Canada thistle. Canadian Journal of Plant Science. 69(4): 1199-1206. [37285]
  • 176. Pojar, Jim; MacKinnon, Andy, eds. 1994. Plants of the Pacific Northwest coast: Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Alaska. Redmond, WA: Lone Pine Publishing. 526 p. [25159]
  • 186. Roland, A. E.; Smith, E. C. 1969. The flora of Nova Scotia. Halifax, NS: Nova Scotia Museum. 746 p. [13158]
  • 192. Schimming, Wanda K.; Messersmith, Calvin G. 1988. Freezing resistance of overwintering buds of four perennial weeds. Weed Science. 36: 568-573. [24022]
  • 203. Stachon, W. J.; Zimdahl, R. L. 1980. Allelopathic activity of Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) in Colorado. Weed Science. 28(1): 83-86. [37267]
  • 238. Welsh, Stanley L.; Atwood, N. Duane; Goodrich, Sherel; Higgins, Larry C., eds. 1987. A Utah flora. The Great Basin Naturalist Memoir No. 9. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University. 894 p. [2944]
  • 240. Whitson, Tom D.; Burrill, Larry C.; Dewey, Steven A.; Cudney, David W.; Nelson, B. E.; Lee, Richard D.; Parker, Robert. 1999. Weeds of the West. 5th edition. Laramie, WY: University of Wyoming. 630 p. In cooperation with: Western Society of Weed Science; Western United States Land Grant Universities, Cooperative Extension Services. [35557]
  • 248. Wofford, B. Eugene. 1989. Guide to the vascular plants of the Blue Ridge. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 384 p. [12908]
  • 126. Larson, Gary E. 1993. Aquatic and wetland vascular plants of the Northern Great Plains. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-238. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 681 p. Jamestown, ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center (Producer). Available: http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/plants/vascplnt/vascplnt.htm [2006, February 11]. [22534]

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Description

Canada thistle is an herbaceous perennial with erect stems 1½-4 feet tall, prickly leaves and an extensive creeping rootstock. Stems are branched, often slightly hairy, and ridged. Leaves are lance-shaped, irregularly lobed with spiny, toothed margins and are borne singly and alternately along the stem. Rose-purple, lavender, or sometimes white flower heads appear from June through October, generally, and occur in rounded, umbrella-shaped clusters.

The small, dry, single-seeded fruits of Canada thistle, called achenes, are 1-1½ inches long and have a feathery structure attached to the seed base. Many native species of thistle occur in the U.S., some of which are rare. Because of the possibility of confusion with native species, Canada thistle should be accurately identified before any control is attempted.

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Description and Biology

  • Plant: erect, perennial herbaceous plant, to 4 ft. tall with an extensive creeping rootstock and ridged and hairy stems.
  • Leaves: lance-shaped, irregularly lobed, 2-6 in. long with weakly- to strongly-prickled margins.
  • Flowers, fruits and seeds: flowering occurs in late June to August; flowers are purple to white and about 1 in. long by ½ in. across; seeds are called achenes, are 1-1½ in. long and have a feathery pappus.
  • Spreads: by wind-dispersed seed; expands locally by vegetative means through lateral roots and root fragments.
  • Look-alikes: a number of native and exotic thistle species, some which are very rare. Numerous species of thistle occur in North America. Some are invasive, some are native, and most are dependably difficult to distinguish without assistance.

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Elevation Range

1100 m
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Description

Perennials, dioecious or nearly so, 30–120(–200) cm; colonial from deep-seated creeping roots producing adventitious buds. Stems 1–many, erect, glabrous to appressed gray-tomentose; branches 0–many, ascending. Leaves: blades oblong to elliptic, 3–30 × 1–6 cm, margins plane to revolute, entire and spinulose, dentate, or shallowly to deeply pinnatifid, lobes well separated, lance-oblong to triangular-ovate, spinulose to few-toothed or few-lobed near base, main spines 1–7 mm, abaxial faces glabrous to densely gray-tomentose, adaxial green, glabrous to thinly tomentose; basal absent at flowering, petioles narrowly winged, bases tapered; principal larger cauline proximally winged-petiolate, distally sessile, well distributed, gradually reduced, not decurrent; distal cauline becoming bractlike, entire, toothed, or lobed, spinulose or not. Heads 1–many, borne singly or in corymbiform or paniculiform arrays at tips of main stem and branches. Peduncles 0.2–7 cm. Involucres ovoid in flower, ± campanulate in fruit, 1–2 × 1–2 cm, arachnoid tomentose, ± glabrate. Phyllaries in 6–8 series, strongly imbricate, (usually purple-tinged), ovate (outer) to linear (inner), abaxial faces with narrow glutinous ridge, outer and middle appressed, entire, apices ascending to spreading, spines 0–1 mm (fine); apices of inner phyllaries flat, ± flexuous, margins entire to minutely erose or ciliolate. Corollas purple (white or pink); staminate 12–18 mm, (remaining longer than pappus when head is fully mature), tubes 8–11 mm, throats 1–1.5 mm, lobes 3–5 mm; pistillate 14–20 mm, (overtopped by pappi in fruit), tubes 10–15 mm, throats ca. 1 mm, lobes 2–3 mm; style tips 1–2 mm. Cypselae brown, 2–4 mm, apical collar not differentiated; pappi 13–32 mm, exceeding corollas. 2n = 34.
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Diagnostic Description

Synonym

Serratula arvensis Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 2: 820. 1753; Breea arvensis (Linnaeus) Lessing; Carduus arvensis (Linnaeus) Robson; Cirsium arvense var. argenteum (Peyer ex Vest) Fiori; C. arvense var. horridum Wimmer & Grabowski; C. arvense var. integrifolium Wimmer & Grabowski; C. arvense var. mite Wimmer & Grabowski; C. arvense var. vestitum Wimmer & Grabowski; C. incanum (S. G. Gmelin) Fischer ex M. Bieberstein; C. setosum (Willdenow) Besser ex M. Bieberstein
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat characteristics

More info for the terms: adventitious, competition, cover, marsh, mesic, natural, peat

Temperature: Canada thistle grows best between 32 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit (0-32 °C) [150,152]. Extended periods with temperatures over 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 °C) reduce plant vigor and generally limit growth. High temperatures and shorter days keep Canada thistle from thriving in the southern U.S. Optimum day/night temperatures for growth are 77 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit (25 and 15 °C), respectively [85]. The northern limit of Canada thistle's growth corresponds to the 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 °C) mean January isotherm; flowering is also limited in the northern latitudes [150]. Canada thistle invasion of native rangelands appears to be a problem especially of highly productive, mesic habitats [179,203,252]. However, Canada thistle was able to infest subalpine fir/twinflower habitats in western Montana [68]. The temperature exposure of overwintering buds required to reduce survival of Canada thistle was 2 hours at 19 degrees Fahrenheit (-7 °C) and to reduce total dry weight was 2 hours at 23 degrees Fahrenheit (-5 °C) [192]. The ability of adventitious root buds to withstand freezing depends on their location in the soil profile [55,192]. In soil samples from a mid-boreal wetland subjected to increased temperatures, Canada thistle seedling emergence increased significantly (p<0.05) at higher temperatures [99,100].

Moisture: Canada thistle tolerates annual precipitation ranging from 12 to 40 inches (305-1015 mm) per year, and grows best with 16 to 30 inches (400-750 mm) of precipitation per year [83,150,152]. In range and pastureland, Canada thistle is often restricted to swales or other areas of deep, moist soils [128]. Canada thistle is concentrated in disturbed areas and along streams, rivers and other moist areas in Rocky Mountain National Park, although individual plants have been found on relatively dry, sagebrush-dominated sites [139]. A high water table limits root growth [185], but Canada thistle often occurs in wetlands where water levels fluctuate, and in degraded sedge meadows it may be found growing on tussocks elevated above the normal high water line. In a mid-boreal wetland subjected to drought, Canada thistle increased 5- to 13-fold over predrought levels [98,100]. Canada thistle survives well in dry places [185] and under extended periods of drought, but biomass and number of root buds decrease after several years [194]. Growth was increased by high relative humidity (90-100%) over low relative humidity (30-50%) [104].

Elevation and slope: Canada thistle occurs over a wide range of elevations from sea level [58] to elevations in excess of 8,000 feet (2,500 m) [49]. In the northern Rocky Mountains, it is found mainly by roadsides and other disturbed sites in the lower elevations and warmer, drier habitats, and escapes to undisturbed sites at upper elevations [140,235]. In Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Canada thistle occurs at elevations ranging from 5,970 to over 7,875 feet (1,820-2,400 m) [4]. In Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, Canada thistle coverage is greater at elevations around 8,375 feet (2,550 m) and decreases at elevations around 9,095 feet (2,770 m), but occurs up to at least 9,185 feet (2,800 m) [139]. Canada thistle grows best on shallow (9-30%) slopes [4,140].

Soils: The wide distribution of Canada thistle suggests that it is adaptable to many soil types [55,185]. It grows on all but waterlogged, poorly aerated, and peat soils, including clay, clay loam, silt loam, sandy loam, sandy clay, sand dunes, gravel, limestone, and chalk [161]. Rogers [185] suggests that Canada thistle grows best on limestone soils with abundant moisture. Some authors suggest that it is best adapted to clay soils [152]; others suggest that it prefers well-aerated soils [150]. Preliminary results in Rocky Mountain National Park indicate that soils supporting Canada thistle tended to have a surface (0-10 cm) texture higher in clay and silt than in sand [139]. Canada thistle was found growing on heavily saline soils in central Alberta, though it was absent from saline areas of Saskatchewan and Manitoba [24]. Hardpans, gravel, sand, or very alkaline soil horizons can limit root development of Canada thistle [185].

Competition and light: Canada thistle grows best in open sunny sites [150]. Canada thistle seedlings are much less competitive than established plants, and will survive only if competition is limited and the daytime light intensity remains above 20% of full sunlight [152]. In Rocky Mountain National Park, total canopy cover of vegetation within Canada thistle patches is less than outside the patches [139]. At Yellowstone National Park, Canada thistle was found in 6 out of 10 campgrounds, with occurrences most frequent under a canopy cover of less than 20%, although it was occasionally present under more closed canopy covers (up to 95%) suggesting that it is somewhat tolerant of shade. Twenty percent of the quadrats in which Canada thistle was present had no evidence of disturbance [4]. Because Canada thistle is relatively shade intolerant, it may be found growing along the edges of woods (both deciduous and coniferous), but is rarely found under forest canopy, in undisturbed prairies, good to excellent pastures, or woodland or sites that are shaded most of the day [83,105,161]. In the Delta Marsh in Manitoba, Canada thistle is present in communities dominated by common reed. It is capable of persisting on undisturbed plots, growing with stunted spindly stems and no flowers, but growth improves after disturbance [213].

Generally, Canada thistle establishes and develops best on open, moist, disturbed areas, including ditch banks, overgrazed pastures, meadows, tilled fields or open waste places, fence rows, roadsides, and campgrounds; and after logging, road building, fire and landslides in natural areas [4,45,106,115,122,138,158,163,188,193,216,220]. Roads, streams and ditches provide areas of disturbance and corridors for invasion. At Yellowstone National Park, Canada thistle was found in all levels of disturbance (along horse and foot trails, roadways, and campgrounds) and its abundance increased as disturbance cover increased [4,219]. Physically disturbed habitat in fragmented old growth in Indiana facilitated invasion by exotics including Canada thistle [26]. Canada thistle invasion was also enhanced by heavy grazing by bison [237], areas left barren during planting operations, and on earth mounds made by pocket gophers and badgers in North and South Dakota [93].

  • 4. Allen, Karen; Hansen, Katherine. 1999. Geography of exotic plants adjacent to campgrounds, Yellowstone National Park, USA. The Great Basin Naturalist. 59(4): 315-322. [33975]
  • 24. Braidek, J. T.; Fedec, P.; Jones, D. 1984. Field survey of halophytic plants of disturbed sites on the Canadian prairies. Canadian Journal of Plant Science. 64: 745-751. [24018]
  • 26. Brothers, Timothy S.; Spingarn, Arthur. 1992. Forest fragmentation and alien plant invasion of central Indiana old-growth forests. Conservation Biology. 6(1): 91-100. [19616]
  • 45. Dale, Virginia H. 1989. Wind dispersed seeds and plant recovery on the Mount St. Helens debris avalanche. Canadian Journal of Botany. 67: 1434-1441. [12670]
  • 49. Dewey, Steven A. 1991. Weedy thistles of the western United States. In: James, Lynn F.; Evans, John O.; Ralphs, Michael H.; Child, R. Dennis, eds. Noxious range weeds. Westview Special Studies in Agricultural Science and Policy. Boulder, CO: Westview Press: 247-253. [23552]
  • 55. Donald, William W. 1994. The biology of Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense). Reviews of Weed Science. 6: 77-101. [37298]
  • 58. Duncan, Wilbur H.; Duncan, Marion B. 1987. The Smithsonian guide to seaside plants of the Gulf and Atlantic coasts from Louisiana to Massachusetts, exclusive of lower peninsular Florida. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press. 409 p. [12906]
  • 68. Forcella, Frank; Harvey, Stephen J. 1983. Eurasian weed infestation in western Montana in relation to vegetation and disturbance. Madrono. 30(2): 102-109. [7897]
  • 85. Haderlie, Lloyd C.; McAllister, Ray S.; Hoefer, Ray H.; Leino, Phil W. 1991. Canada thistle control. In: James, Lynn F.; Evans, John O.; Child, R. Dennis, eds. Noxious range weeds. Westview Special Studies in Agricultural Science and Policy. Boulder, CO: Westview Press: 260-263. [37276]
  • 93. Higgins, Kenneth F.; Barker, William T. 1982. Changes in vegetation structure in seeded nesting cover in the prairie pothole region. Special Scientific Report--Wildlife No. 242. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 27 p. [37248]
  • 98. Hogenbirk, John C.; Wein, Ross W. 1991. Fire and drought experiments in northern wetlands: a climate change analogue. Canadian Journal of Botany. 69: 1991-1997. [17127]
  • 99. Hogenbirk, John C.; Wein, Ross W. 1992. Temperature effects on seedling emergence from boreal wetland soils: implications for climate change. Aquatic Botany. 42(4): 361-373. [19959]
  • 100. Hogenbirk, John C.; Wein, Ross W. 1995. Fire in boreal wet-meadows: implications for climate change. In: Cerulean, Susan I.; Engstrom, R. Todd, eds. Fire in wetlands: a management perspective: Proceedings, 19th Tall Timbers fire ecology conference; 1993 November 3-6; Tallahassee, FL. No. 19. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 21-29. [26948]
  • 104. Hunter, J. H.; Hsiao, A. I.; McIntyre, G. I. 1985. Some effects of humidity on the growth and development of Cirsium arvense. Botanical Gazette. 146(4): 483-488. [37253]
  • 105. Hutchison, Max. 1992. Vegetation management guideline: Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense (L) Scop.). Natural Areas Journal. 12(3): 160-161. [19441]
  • 106. Jensen, Mark E. 1991. Ecological classification and cumulative soil effects. In: Harvey, Alan E.; Neuenschwander, Leon F., compilers. Proceedings--management and productivity of western-montane forest soils; 1990 April 10-12; Boise, ID. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-280. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station: 218-223. [15985]
  • 115. Knapp, Paul A. 1991. The response of semi-arid vegetation assemblages following the abandonment of mining towns in southwestern Montana. Journal of Arid Environments. 20: 205-222. [14894]
  • 122. Lafferty, Ralph R. 1970. Effect of burn intensities on vegetal composition and canopy-coverage in a selected area of western Montana. Missoula, MT: University of Montana. 81 p. Thesis. [35756]
  • 128. Leininger, Wayne C. 1988. Non-chemical alternatives for managing selected plant species in the western United States. XCM-118. Fort Collins, CO: Colorado State University, Cooperative Extension. In cooperation with: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 47 p. [13038]
  • 138. McKell, Cyrus M. 1950. A study of plant succession in the oak brush (Quercus gambelii) zone after fire. Salt Lake City, UT: University of Utah. 79 p. Thesis. [1608]
  • 139. McLendon, Terry. 1992. Factors controlling the distribution of Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) in montane ecosystems: Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. Annual Report: NPS Contract Number CA 1268-1-9002; Reporting period 17 April 1991 - 30 April 1992. Unpublished report on file with: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountian Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT. 36 p. [38368]
  • 140. Meier, Gretchen; Weaver, T. 1997. Desirables and weeds for roadside management--a northern Rocky Mountain catalogue. Report No. RHWA/MT-97/8115. Final report: July 1994-December 1997. Helena, MT: State of Montana Department of Transportation, Research, Development, and Technology Transfer Program. 145 p. [29135]
  • 150. Moore, R. J. 1975. The biology of Canadian weeds. 13. Cirsium arvense (L.) Scop. Canadian Journal of Plant Science. 55(4): 1033-1048. [37311]
  • 152. Morishita, Don W. 1999. Canada thistle. In: Sheley, Roger L.; Petroff, Janet K., eds. Biology and management of noxious rangeland weeds. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University Press: 162-174. [35719]
  • 158. Neiland, Bonita J. 1958. Forest and adjacent burn in the Tillamook Burn area of northwestern Oregon. Ecology. 39(4): 660-671. [8879]
  • 163. Ossinger, Mary C. 1983. The Pseudotsuga-Tsuga/Rhododendron community in the northeast Olympic Mountains. Bellingham, WA: Western Washington University. 50 p. Thesis. [11435]
  • 179. Reece, Patrick E.; Wilson, Robert G. 1983. Effect of Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) and musk thistle (Carduus nutans) control on grass herbage. Weed Science. 31(4): 488-492. [37265]
  • 185. Rogers, Charles F. 1928. Canada thistle and Russian knapweed and their control. Bulletin 348. Fort Collins, CO: Colorado Agricultural College, Colorado Experiment Station. 44 p. [37692]
  • 188. Romme, William H.; Bohland, Laura; Persichetty, Cynthia; Caruso, Tanya. 1995. Germination ecology of some common forest herbs in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, U.S.A. Arctic and Alpine Research. 27(4): 407-412. [26049]
  • 192. Schimming, Wanda K.; Messersmith, Calvin G. 1988. Freezing resistance of overwintering buds of four perennial weeds. Weed Science. 36: 568-573. [24022]
  • 193. Schoenberger, M. Meyer; Perry, D. A. 1982. The effect of soil disturbance on growth and ectomycorrhizae of Douglas- fir and western hemlock seedlings: a greenhouse bioassay. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 12: 343-353. [12940]
  • 194. Schonfeld, Manette; Haderlie, Lloyd C. 1988. Water relations in Canada thistle in response to soil water relations. Proceedings, Western Society of Weed Science. 41: 70-72. [37295]
  • 203. Stachon, W. J.; Zimdahl, R. L. 1980. Allelopathic activity of Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) in Colorado. Weed Science. 28(1): 83-86. [37267]
  • 213. Thompson, D. J.; Shay, Jennifer M. 1989. First-year response of a Phragmites marsh community to seasonal burning. Canadian Journal of Botany. 67: 1448-1455. [7312]
  • 216. Titus, Jonathan H.; Moore, Scott; Arnot, Mildred; Titus, Priscilla J. 1998. Inventory of the vascular flora of the blast zone, Mount St. Helens, Washington. Madrono. 45(2): 146-161. [30322]
  • 219. Turner, Monica G.; Romme, William H.; Gardner, Robert H.; Hargrove, William W. 1997. Effects of fire size and pattern on early succession in Yellowstone National Park. Ecological Monographs. 67(4): 411-433. [27851]
  • 220. Turner, Nancy J. 1999. "Time to burn": Traditional use of fire to enhance resource production by aboriginal peoples in British Columbia. In: Boyd, Robert, ed. Indians, fire and the land in the Pacific Northwest. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University Press: 185-218. [35574]
  • 235. Weaver, T.; Lichthart, J.; Gustafson, D. 1990. Exotic invasion of timberline vegetation, Northern Rocky Mountains, USA. In: Schmidt, Wyman C.; McDonald, Kathy J., compilers. Proceedings--symposium on whitebark pine ecosystems: ecology and management of a high-mountain resource; 1989 March 29-31; Bozeman, MT. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-270. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station: 208-213. [11688]
  • 237. Wein, Ross W.; Wein, Gerold; Bahret, Sieglinde; Cody, William J. 1992. Northward invading non-native vascular plant species in and adjacent to Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada. Canadian Field-Naturalist. 106(2): 216-224. [24014]
  • 252. Young, Richard P. 1986. Fire ecology and management in plant communities of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Portland, OR: Oregon State University. 169 p. Thesis. [3745]
  • 83. Haber, Erich. 1997. Fact sheet no. 8--Canada thistle. In: Invasive plants of Canada: Guide to species and methods of control, [Online]. Available: http://infoweb.magi.com/~keyw CIRARV, DISTRIB, MORPHOLOGY, AUTECOLOGY, IPM,. [37487]
  • 161. Nuzzo, Victoria. 1997. Element stewardship abstract: Cirsium arvense. In: Weeds on the web: The Nature Conservancy wildland invasive species program, [Online]. Available: http://tncweeds.ucdavis.edu/esadocs/cirsarve.html [2001, July 01]. [37486]

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Habitat: Rangeland Cover Types

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This species is known to occur in association with the following Rangeland Cover Types (as classified by the Society for Range Management, SRM):

More info for the terms: cover, mesic, shrub, tussock

SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES [199]:

101 Bluebunch wheatgrass

102 Idaho fescue

103 Green fescue

104 Antelope bitterbrush-bluebunch wheatgrass

105 Antelope bitterbrush-Idaho fescue

107 Western juniper/big sagebrush/bluebunch wheatgrass

109 Ponderosa pine shrubland

110 Ponderosa pine-grassland

201 Blue oak woodland

202 Coast live oak woodland

203 Riparian woodland

204 North coastal shrub

208 Ceanothus mixed chaparral

209 Montane shrubland

210 Bitterbrush

213 Alpine grassland

214 Coastal prairie

215 Valley grassland

216 Montane meadows

217 Wetlands

301 Bluebunch wheatgrass-blue grama

302 Bluebunch wheatgrass-Sandberg bluegrass

303 Bluebunch wheatgrass-western wheatgrass

304 Idaho fescue-bluebunch wheatgrass

305 Idaho fescue-Richardson needlegrass

306 Idaho fescue-slender wheatgrass

307 Idaho fescue-threadleaf sedge

308 Idaho fescue-tufted hairgrass

309 Idaho fescue-western wheatgrass

310 Needle-and-thread-blue grama

311 Rough fescue-bluebunch wheatgrass

312 Rough fescue-Idaho fescue

313 Tufted hairgrass-sedge

314 Big sagebrush-bluebunch wheatgrass

315 Big sagebrush-Idaho fescue

316 Big sagebrush-rough fescue

317 Bitterbrush-bluebunch wheatgrass

318 Bitterbrush-Idaho fescue

319 Bitterbrush-rough fescue

320 Black sagebrush-bluebunch wheatgrass

321 Black sagebrush-Idaho fescue

322 Curlleaf mountain-mahogany-bluebunch wheatgrass

323 Shrubby cinquefoil-rough fescue

324 Threetip sagebrush-Idaho fescue

401 Basin big sagebrush

402 Mountain big sagebrush

403 Wyoming big sagebrush

404 Threetip sagebrush

405 Black sagebrush

406 Low sagebrush

407 Stiff sagebrush

408 Other sagebrush types

409 Tall forb

410 Alpine rangeland

411 Aspen woodland

412 Juniper-pinyon woodland

413 Gambel oak

415 Curlleaf mountain-mahogany

416 True mountain-mahogany

417 Littleleaf mountain-mahogany

418 Bigtooth maple

419 Bittercherry

420 Snowbrush

421 Chokecherry-serviceberry-rose

422 Riparian

504 Juniper-pinyon pine woodland

509 Transition between oak-juniper woodland and mahogany-oak association

601 Bluestem prairie

602 Bluestem-prairie sandreed

603 Prairie sandreed-needlegrass

604 Bluestem-grama prairie

605 Sandsage prairie

606 Wheatgrass-bluestem-needlegrass

607 Wheatgrass-needlegrass

608 Wheatgrass-grama-needlegrass

609 Wheatgrass-grama

610 Wheatgrass

611 Blue grama-buffalo grass

612 Sagebrush-grass

613 Fescue grassland

614 Crested wheatgrass

615 Wheatgrass-saltgrass-grama

722 Sand sagebrush-mixed prairie

801 Savanna

802 Missouri prairie

803 Missouri glades

804 Tall fescue

805 Riparian

808 Sand pine scrub

901 Alder

902 Alpine herb

903 Beach wildrye-mixed forb

904 Black spruce-lichen

905 Bluejoint reedgrass

906 Broadleaf forest

908 Fescue

909 Freshwater marsh

910 Hairgrass

912 Low scrub shrub birch-ericaceous

913 Low scrub swamp

914 Mesic sedge-grass-herb meadow tundra

915 Mixed herb-herbaceous

916 Sedge-shrub tundra

917 Tall shrub swamp

918 Tussock tundra

919 Wet meadow tundra

920 White spruce-paper birch

921 Willow
  • 199. Shiflet, Thomas N., ed. 1994. Rangeland cover types of the United States. Denver, CO: Society for Range Management. 152 p. [23362]

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Habitat: Cover Types

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This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):

More info for the term: cover

SAF COVER TYPES [59]:

1 Jack pine

5 Balsam fir

12 Black spruce

13 Black spruce-tamarack

14 Northern pin oak

15 Red pine

16 Aspen

17 Pin cherry

18 Paper birch

19 Gray birch-red maple

20 White pine-northern red oak-red maple

21 Eastern white pine

22 White pine-hemlock

23 Eastern hemlock

24 Hemlock-yellow birch

25 Sugar maple-beech-yellow birch

26 Sugar maple-basswood

27 Sugar maple

28 Black cherry-maple

30 Red spruce-yellow birch

31 Red spruce-sugar maple-beech

32 Red spruce

33 Red spruce-balsam fir

34 Red spruce-Fraser fir

35 Paper birch-red spruce-balsam fir

37 Northern white-cedar

38 Tamarack

39 Black ash-American elm-red maple

40 Post oak-blackjack oak

42 Bur oak

43 Bear oak

44 Chestnut oak

45 Pitch pine

46 Eastern redcedar

50 Black locust

51 White pine-chestnut oak

52 White oak-black oak-northern red oak

53 White oak

55 Northern red oak

57 Yellow-poplar

58 Yellow-poplar-eastern hemlock

59 Yellow-poplar-white oak-northern red oak

60 Beech-sugar maple

61 River birch-sycamore

62 Silver maple-American elm

63 Cottonwood

64 Sassafras-persimmon

65 Pin oak-sweetgum

75 Shortleaf pine

76 Shortleaf pine-oak

78 Virginia pine-oak

79 Virginia pine

80 Loblolly pine-shortleaf pine

81 Loblolly pine

87 Sweetgum-yellow-poplar

93 Sugarberry-American elm-green ash

95 Black willow

107 White spruce

108 Red maple

109 Hawthorn

110 Black oak

201 White spruce

202 White spruce-paper birch

203 Balsam poplar

204 Black spruce

205 Mountain hemlock

206 Engelmann spruce-subalpine fir

207 Red fir

208 Whitebark pine

209 Bristlecone pine

210 Interior Douglas-fir

211 White fir

212 Western larch

213 Grand fir

215 Western white pine

216 Blue spruce

217 Aspen

218 Lodgepole pine

219 Limber pine

220 Rocky Mountain juniper

221 Red alder

222 Black cottonwood-willow

223 Sitka spruce

224 Western hemlock

225 Western hemlock-Sitka spruce

226 Coastal true fir-hemlock

227 Western redcedar-western hemlock

228 Western redcedar

229 Pacific Douglas-fir

230 Douglas-fir-western hemlock

231 Port-Orford-cedar

232 Redwood

233 Oregon white oak

234 Douglas-fir-tanoak-Pacific madrone

235 Cottonwood-willow

236 Bur oak

237 Interior ponderosa pine

238 Western juniper

239 Pinyon-juniper

243 Sierra Nevada mixed conifer

244 Pacific ponderosa pine-Douglas-fir

245 Pacific ponderosa pine

246 California black oak

247 Jeffrey pine

248 Knobcone pine

249 Canyon live oak

250 Blue oak-foothills pine

251 White spruce-aspen

252 Paper birch

253 Black spruce-white spruce

254 Black spruce-paper birch

255 California coast live oak

256 California mixed subalpine>
  • 59. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. [905]

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Habitat: Plant Associations

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This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):

More info for the terms: bog, shrub

KUCHLER [119] PLANT ASSOCIATIONS:

K001 Spruce-cedar-hemlock forest

K002 Cedar-hemlock-Douglas-fir forest

K003 Silver fir-Douglas-fir forest

K004 Fir-hemlock forest

K005 Mixed conifer forest

K006 Redwood forest

K007 Red fir forest

K008 Lodgepole pine-subalpine forest

K009 Pine-cypress forest

K010 Ponderosa shrub forest

K011 Western ponderosa forest

K012 Douglas-fir forest

K013 Cedar-hemlock-pine forest

K014 Grand fir-Douglas-fir forest

K015 Western spruce-fir forest

K016 Eastern ponderosa forest

K017 Black Hills pine forest

K018 Pine-Douglas-fir forest

K019 Arizona pine forest

K020 Spruce-fir-Douglas-fir forest

K021 Southwestern spruce-fir forest

K022 Great Basin pine forest

K023 Juniper-pinyon woodland

K024 Juniper steppe woodland

K025 Alder-ash forest

K026 Oregon oakwoods

K028 Mosaic of K002 and K026

K029 California mixed evergreen forest

K030 California oakwoods

K032 Transition between K031 and K037

K034 Montane chaparral

K035 Coastal sagebrush

K036 Mosaic of K030 and K035

K037 Mountain-mahogany-oak scrub

K038 Great Basin sagebrush

K047 Fescue-oatgrass

K048 California steppe

K049 Tule marshes

K050 Fescue-wheatgrass

K051 Wheatgrass-bluegrass

K052 Alpine meadows and barren

K055 Sagebrush steppe

K056 Wheatgrass-needlegrass shrubsteppe

K063 Foothills prairie

K064 Grama-needlegrass-wheatgrass

K066 Wheatgrass-needlegrass

K067 Wheatgrass-bluestem-needlegrass

K068 Wheatgrass-grama-buffalo grass

K069 Bluestem-grama prairie

K070 Sandsage-bluestem prairie

K074 Bluestem prairie

K075 Nebraska Sandhills prairie

K081 Oak savanna

K082 Mosaic of K074 and K100

K084 Cross Timbers

K093 Great Lakes spruce-fir forest

K094 Conifer bog

K095 Great Lakes pine forest

K096 Northeastern spruce-fir forest

K098 Northern floodplain forest

K099 Maple-basswood forest

K100 Oak-hickory forest

K101 Elm-ash forest

K102 Beech-maple forest

K103 Mixed mesophytic forest

K104 Appalachian oak forest

K106 Northern hardwoods

K107 Northern hardwoods-fir forest

K108 Northern hardwoods-spruce forest

K109 Transition between K104 and K106

K110 Northeastern oak-pine forest
  • 119. Kuchler, A. W. 1964. United States [Potential natural vegetation of the conterminous United States]. Special Publication No. 36. New York: American Geographical Society. 1:3,168,000; colored. [3455]

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Habitat: Ecosystem

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This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):

ECOSYSTEMS [74]:

FRES10 White-red-jack pine

FRES11 Spruce-fir

FRES15 Oak-hickory

FRES17 Elm-ash-cottonwood

FRES18 Maple-beech-birch

FRES19 Aspen-birch

FRES20 Douglas-fir

FRES21 Ponderosa pine

FRES22 Western white pine

FRES23 Fir-spruce

FRES24 Hemlock-Sitka spruce

FRES25 Larch

FRES26 Lodgepole pine

FRES27 Redwood

FRES28 Western hardwoods

FRES29 Sagebrush

FRES34 Chaparral-mountain shrub

FRES35 Pinyon-juniper

FRES36 Mountain grasslands

FRES37 Mountain meadows

FRES38 Plains grasslands

FRES39 Prairie

FRES41 Wet grasslands

FRES42 Annual grasslands

FRES44 Alpine
  • 74. Garrison, George A.; Bjugstad, Ardell J.; Duncan, Don A.; Lewis, Mont E.; Smith, Dixie R. 1977. Vegetation and environmental features of forest and range ecosystems. Agric. Handb. 475. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 68 p. [998]

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Range and Habitat in Illinois

Canada Thistle is a common plant that occurs primarily in central and northern Illinois (see Distribution Map). It is apparently less common or absent from many areas of southern Illinois, although it could be spreading southward. Contrary to the common name, this plant is originally from Eurasia. Typical habitats include cropland, abandoned fields, areas along roads and railroads, vacant lots, weedy meadows, and degraded prairies. This plant can invade lawns that are not mowed regularly, and it is aggressive enough to invade many natural habitats.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Habitat in the United States

Canada thistle grows in barrens, glades, meadows, prairies, fields, pastures, and waste places. It does best in disturbed upland areas but also invades wet areas with fluctuating water levels such as streambank sedge meadows and wet prairies.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

U.S. National Park Service Weeds Gone Wild website

Source: U.S. National Park Service

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Associations

Flower-Visiting Insects of Canada Thistle in Illinois

Cirsium arvense (Canada Thistle) introduced
(Bees suck nectar or collect pollen, flies & beetles suck nectar or feed on pollen, other insects suck nectar; some observations are from Reed as indicated below, otherwise they are from Graenicher)

Bees (long-tongued)
Apidae (Apinae): Apis mellifera sn cp; Apidae (Bombini): Bombus centralis sn cp, Bombus edwardsii sn cp, Bombus griseocallis sn cp, Bombus pensylvanica sn cp, Bombus ternarius sn cp; Anthophoridae (Anthophorini): Anthophora terminalis sn; Anthophoridae (Ceratinini): Ceratina dupla dupla sn cp; Anthophoridae (Eucerini): Melissodes desponsa sn cp olg; Anthophoridae (Nomadini): Nomada articulata sn; Megachilidae (Megachilini): Megachile centuncularis sn, Megachile latimanus sn cp; Megachilidae (Trypetini): Heriades carinatum sn cp

Bees (short-tongued)
Halictidae (Halictinae): Agapostemon sericea sn cp, Agapostemon virescens sn cp (Gr, Re), Augochlorella striata sn cp, Halictus (or Lasioglossum) spp. sn cp, Halictus confusus sn, Halictus ligatus sn cp, Halictus rubicunda sn cp, Lasioglossum cinctipes sn cp, Lasioglossum connexus sn cp, Lasioglossum foxii sn, Lasioglossum imitatus sn cp, Lasioglossum versatus sn cp, Lasioglossum zephyrus sn cp; Halictidae (Sphecodini): Sphecodes clematidis sn, Sphecodes davisii sn; Colletidae (Hylaeinae): Hylaeus modestus modestus sn; Andrenidae (Andreninae): Andrena commoda (Re), Andrena miranda sn cp, Andrena peckhami sn cp; Andrenidae (Panurginae): Calliopsis andreniformis sn

Wasps
Sphecidae (Bembicinae): Gorytes simillimus; Sphecidae (Crabroninae): Ectemnius continuus, Ectemnius lapidarius, Ectemnius trifasciatus, Lestica confluentus; Sphecidae (Larrinae): Tachytes pepticus, Tachysphex pompiliformis; Sphecidae (Philanthinae): Cerceris spp. (Re), Cerceris clypeata, Cerceris nigrescens, Philanthus bilunatus; Sphecidae (Sphecinae): Ammophila kennedyi, Eremnophila aureonotata; Tiphiidae: Myzinum quinqecincta; Vespidae: Dolichovespula arenaria, Polistes fuscata, Vespula germanica; Vespidae (Eumeninae): Ancistrocerus antilope, Euodynerus foraminatus

Flies
Sciaridae: Sciara fuliginosus; Stratiomyidae: Hedriodiscus vertebrata, Odontomyia cincta, Odontomyia virgo, Stratiomys lativentris, Stratiomys normula; Conopidae: Physocephala tibialis, Thecophora occidensis; Syrphidae: Allograpta obliqua, Eristalis anthophorina, Eristalis brousii, Eristalis flavipes, Eristalis tenax, Eristalis transversus, Eupeodes americanus, Helophilus chrysostomus, Helophilus fasciatus, Helophilus stipatus, Melanostoma mellinum, Milesia virginiensis, Orthonevra pulchella, Polydontomyia curvipes, Sphaerophoria contiqua, Syrphus ribesii, Toxomerus geminatus, Toxomerus marginatus (Gr, Re), Tropidia quadrata; Tachinidae: Archytas analis, Cylindromyia carolinae, Cylindromyia dosiades Tachinomyia panaetius; Sarcophagidae: Sarcophaga sp., Sarcophaga sarracenioides; Calliphoridae: Lucilia illustris, Pollenia rudis, Protophormia terraenovae; Muscidae: Graphomya maculata, Morellia micans, Stomoxys calcitrans (Gr, Re); Anthomyiidae: Delia platura, Hylemya sp. (Re)

Butterflies
Nymphalidae: Limenitis archippus, Limenitis arthemis astyanax, Vanessa atalanta, Vanessa cardui, Vanessa virginiensis; Pieridae: Pieris rapae, Pontia protodice; Lycaenidae: Satyrium calanus

Skippers
Hesperiidae: Anatrytone logan (Re), Epargyreus clarus, Polites themistocles

Moths
Pterophoridae: Geina tenuidactylus

Beetles
Cerambycidae: Typocerus vulutina; Cleridae: Trichodes apivorus; Coccinellidae: Coleomegilla maculata; Mordellidae: Hoshihananomia octopunctata, Mordella melaena, Mordellistena comata; Scarabaeidae: Trichiotinus piger

Plant Bugs
Lygaeidae: Lygaeus turcicus; Miridae: Plagiognathus sp.

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Foodplant / internal feeder
larva of Acanthiophilus helianthi feeds within capitulum of Cirsium arvense

Foodplant / parasite
immersed oospore of Albugo tragopogonis var. tragopogonis parasitises live leaf of Cirsium arvense

Foodplant / internal feeder
larva of Apion carduorum feeds within stem? of Cirsium arvense
Other: major host/prey

In Great Britain and/or Ireland:
Foodplant / parasite
sporangium of Bremia lactucae parasitises live Cirsium arvense
Other: unusual host/prey

Foodplant / internal feeder
larva of Chaetostomella cylindrica feeds within capitulum of Cirsium arvense

Foodplant / internal feeder
larva of Cleonis piger feeds within stem of Cirsium arvense
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
stromatic, deeply sunken apothecium of Cryptodiscus rhopaloides is saprobic on dead stem of Cirsium arvense
Remarks: season: 6-11

Foodplant / saprobe
scattered, black, raising epidermis pycnidium of Diplodina coelomycetous anamorph of Diplodina cirsii is saprobic on dead, locally bleached stem of Cirsium arvense
Remarks: season: 5-6

Foodplant / internal feeder
larva of Ensina sonchi feeds within capitulum of Cirsium arvense

Foodplant / parasite
Erysiphe mayorii parasitises live Cirsium arvense

Foodplant / parasite
Golovinomyces cichoracearum parasitises live Cirsium arvense
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
apothecium of Hyalopeziza millepunctata is saprobic on dead, standing stem (near base of Cirsium arvense
Remarks: season: 4-11

Foodplant / saprobe
superficial, scattered or in small groups, thinly subiculate perithecium of Hydropisphaera arenula is saprobic on dead stem of Cirsium arvense
Remarks: season: 1-12

Foodplant / saprobe
immersed pseudothecium of Kalmusia clivensis is saprobic on dead stem of Cirsium arvense
Remarks: season: 5-6

Foodplant / feeds on
larva of Larinus planus feeds on Cirsium arvense

Foodplant / open feeder
larva of Lema cyanella grazes on windowed leaf (upper surface) of Cirsium arvense
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
immersed pseudothecium of Leptosphaeria macrospora is saprobic on dead stem of Cirsium arvense
Remarks: season: 4-6

Foodplant / saprobe
partly immersed pseudothecium of Leptosphaeria purpurea is saprobic on dead stem of Cirsium arvense
Remarks: season: 6-7

Foodplant / feeds on
larva of Lixus angustatus feeds on Cirsium arvense

Foodplant / saprobe
sessile apothecium of Mollisia clavata is saprobic on dead stem of Cirsium arvense
Remarks: season: 4-11

Foodplant / feeds on
larva of Mordellistena acuticollis feeds on Cirsium arvense

Foodplant / saprobe
immersed pseudothecium of Nodulosphaeria dolioloides is saprobic on dead stem of Cirsium arvense

Foodplant / saprobe
immersed pseudothecium of Ophiobolus acuminatus is saprobic on dead stem of Cirsium arvense
Remarks: season: 3-6
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
numerous, scattered to gregarious, almost superficial, brown-black pycnidium of Rhabdospora coelomycetous anamorph of Ophiobolus cirsii is saprobic on dead stem of Cirsium arvense
Remarks: season: 2-5

Foodplant / parasite
underground tuber of Orobanche reticulata parasitises root of Cirsium arvense
Other: major host/prey

Plant / resting place / on
adult of Oulema obscura may be found on Cirsium arvense
Remarks: season: 7-

Foodplant / saprobe
short-stalked apothecium of Pezizella discreta is saprobic on dead stem of Cirsium arvense
Remarks: season: 10-11

Foodplant / saprobe
sessile, in clusters of 2 to 5 apothecium of Pezizella glareosa is saprobic on dead stem of Cirsium arvense
Remarks: season: 9-10
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Phanerochaete calotricha is saprobic on dead, decayed stem of Cirsium arvense
Other: unusual host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
sometimes in rows conidioma of Phoma coelomycetous anamorph of Phoma cirsii is saprobic on dead leaf of Cirsium arvense

Foodplant / saprobe
immersed pycnidium of Phoma coelomycetous anamorph of Phoma rubella is saprobic on dead, red stained (epidermis) stem of Cirsium arvense
Remarks: season: 4-5

Foodplant / saprobe
sometimes in rows pycnidium of Phomopsis coelomycetous anamorph of Phomopsis cirsii is saprobic on dead stem of Cirsium arvense
Remarks: season: 10-5

Foodplant / feeds on
epiphyllous, scattered pycnidium of Phyllosticta coelomycetous anamorph of Phyllosticta cirsii feeds on leaf of Cirsium arvense
Remarks: season: 9

Plant / resting place / within
puparium of Phytomyza autumnalis may be found in leaf-mine of Cirsium arvense
Other: major host/prey

Plant / resting place / on
puparium of Phytomyza cirsii may be found on leaf of Cirsium arvense
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
erumpent apothecium of Pirottaea brevipila is saprobic on dead stem of Cirsium arvense
Remarks: season: 6

Foodplant / pathogen
Pseudomonas syringae strain CT99B016C infects and damages chlorotic leaf (upper) of Cirsium arvense

Foodplant / saprobe
effuse colony of Pseudospiropes dematiaceous anamorph of Pseudospiropes rousselianus is saprobic on dead stem of Cirsium arvense

Foodplant / parasite
Puccinia cnici parasitises live Cirsium arvense
Remarks: Other: uncertain

Foodplant / pathogen
telium of Puccinia punctiformis infects and damages Cirsium arvense

Foodplant / saprobe
erumpent apothecium of Pyrenopeziza adenostylidis is saprobic on dead stem of Cirsium arvense
Remarks: season: 5-11

Foodplant / saprobe
erumpent apothecium of Pyrenopeziza carduorum is saprobic on dead stem of Cirsium arvense
Remarks: season: 5-8

Foodplant / spot causer
amphigenous colony of Ramularia hyphomycetous anamorph of Ramularia cynarae causes spots on live leaf of Cirsium arvense

Foodplant / saprobe
immersed, more or less linearly arranged pycnidium of Sphaeronaema coelomycetous anamorph of Sphaeronaema floccosum is saprobic on dead stem of Cirsium arvense
Remarks: season: 4

Foodplant / saprobe
colony of Stachybotrys dematiaceous anamorph of Stachybotrys dichroa is saprobic on dead stem of Cirsium arvense
Remarks: season: 4-9

Foodplant / internal feeder
larva of Tephritis cometa feeds within capitulum of Cirsium arvense
Other: sole host/prey

Foodplant / feeds on
larva of Terellia ruficauda feeds on Cirsium arvense

Foodplant / internal feeder
larva of Terellia tussilaginis feeds within capitulum of Cirsium arvense
Other: unusual host/prey

Foodplant / sap sucker
nymph of Tingis ampliata sucks sap of green parts (not involucre) of Cirsium arvense
Remarks: season: late 6-early 9

Foodplant / gall
larva of Urophora cardui causes gall of live stem of Cirsium arvense
Other: sole host/prey

Foodplant / feeds on
larva of Urophora stylata feeds on Cirsium arvense

Foodplant / internal feeder
larva of Xyphosia miliaria feeds within capitulum of Cirsium arvense

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Faunal Associations

The flowers of Canada Thistle attract a wide variety of insects, including long-tongued bees, short-tongued bees, Sphecid wasps, Vespid wasps, miscellaneous flies, butterflies, skippers, and beetles. Both nectar and pollen are available as floral rewards. The caterpillars of the butterfly Vanessa cardui (Painted Lady) feed on the foliage, as do the caterpillars of many moth species (see Moth Table). Others insects that feed on the foliage, roots, seeds, and other parts of Canada Thistle include leaf beetles, weevils, stink bugs, aphids, treehoppers, the larvae of fruit flies, and grasshoppers; the Insect Table lists many of these species. The seeds of Canada Thistle and other thistles are a source of food to some songbirds, including the Eastern Goldfinch, Pine Siskin, Slate-Colored Junco, Indigo Bunting, and Clay-Colored Sparrow. Because of the thorny foliage, mammalian herbivores usually avoid eating this plant, except when little else is available. If the foliage is eaten, they can have problems with irritation of their mouthparts and digestive tract as a result. Comments
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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General Ecology

Fire Management Considerations

More info for the terms: cover, fire management, fire regime, forb, frequency, fuel, fuel loading, natural, phenology, prescribed burn, restoration, severity, wildfire

Abundant evidence of postfire establishment of Canada thistle [16,138,163,193] suggests that managers need to be aware of this possibility, especially if a known seed source is in the area, and take measures to prevent the establishment of Canada thistle after prescribed burning and wildfires. Seeding with aggressive, introduced grasses such as crested wheatgrass, intermediate wheatgrass, orchardgrass, and smooth brome following a prescribed burn in Utah pinyon-juniper communities prevented establishment of Canada thistle, whereas unseeded areas supported Canada thistle seedlings [77]. Similarly, in disturbed forest sites where Canada thistle becomes established, it may be shaded out over time as trees reestablish [56].

Research in this report suggests that response of Canada thistle to fire is variable and it depends on vegetation and site characteristics, as well as frequency, severity and season of burning. Prescribed burns may be effective at stimulating growth of native species and thereby discouraging the growth of invasives such as Canada thistle [182], and may be best if timed to emulate the natural fire regime of a site [44]. Hutchison [105] states that prescribed burning is a "preferred treatment" for the control of Canada thistle, and that late spring burns effectively discourage this species, whereas early spring burns can increase sprouting and reproduction. During the first 3 years of control efforts, he recommends that burns be conducted annually [105], though it is unclear what evidence these recommendations are based on. Season of burn is an important consideration for prescribed burning, as the timing of the burn will determine species composition and cover in the post-fire community [101,102]. Dormant season burning may be a preferred treatment method in some areas, because in many habitats it stimulates growth of native vegetation that subsequently competes with Canada thistle [252]. However, dormant season burning may not be as effective as late spring burning [105]. Controlled studies comparing the effects of these variables in different natural areas are currently lacking in the literature. 

Equations for estimating fuel loading of forb communities including Canada thistle are available [27].

The USDA Forest Service's "Guide to Noxious Weed Prevention Practices" [224] provides several fire management considerations for weed prevention in general that apply to Canada thistle. To prevent invasion after wildfires and prescribed burns, re-establish vegetation on bare ground as soon as possible using either natural recovery or artificial techniques as appropriate to site objectives. When reseeding burn areas, use only certified weed-free seed. Monitor burn sites and associated disturbed areas after the fire and the following spring for emergence of Canada thistle, and treat to eradicate any emergent Canada thistle plants. Regulate human, pack animal, and livestock entry into burned areas at risk for weed invasion until desirable site vegetation has recovered sufficiently to resist weed invasion.

When planning a prescribed burn, preinventory the project area and evaluate cover and phenology of any Canada thistle present on or adjacent to the site, and avoid ignition and burning in areas at high risk for Canada thistle establishment or spread due to fire effects. Avoid creating soil conditions that promote weed germination and establishment. Discuss weed status and risks in burn rehabilitation plans. Wildfire managers might consider including weed prevention education and providing weed identification aids during fire training; avoiding known weed infestations when locating fire lines, monitoring camps, staging areas, helibases, etc., to be sure they are kept weed free; taking care that equipment is weed free; incorporating weed prevention into fire rehabilitation plans; and acquiring restoration funding. Additional guidelines and specific recommendations and requirements are available [224].
  • 16. Benson, Nathan C.; Kurth, Laurie L. 1995. Vegetation establishment on rehabilitated bulldozer lines after the 1988 Red Bench Fire in Glacier National Park. In: Brown, James K.; Mutch, Robert W.; Spoon, Charles W.; Wakimoto, Ronald H., technical coordinators. Proceedings: symposium on fire in wilderness and park management; 1993 March 30 - April 1; Missoula, MT. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-GTR-320. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station: 164-167. [26216]
  • 27. Brown, James K.; Marsden, Michael A. 1976. Estimating fuel weights of grasses, forbs, and small woody plants. Res. Note INT-210. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 11 p. [5030]
  • 56. Doyle, Kathleen M.; Knight, Dennis H.; Taylor, Dale L.; Barmore, William J., Jr.; Benedict, James M. 1998. Seventeen years of forest succession following the Waterfalls Canyon Fire in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. International Journal of Wildland Fire. 8(1): 45-55. [29072]
  • 77. Goodrich, Sherel; Rooks, Dustin. 1999. Control of weeds at a pinyon-juniper site by seeding grasses. In: Monsen, Stephen B.; Stevens, Richard, compilers. Proceedings: ecology and management of pinyon-juniper communities within the Interior West: Sustaining and restoring a diverse ecosystem; 1997 September 15-18; Provo, UT. Proceedings RMRS-P-9. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station: 403-407. [30588]
  • 101. Howe, Henry F. 1994. Managing species diversity in tallgrass prairie: assumptions and implications. Conservation Biology. 8(3): 691-704. [26692]
  • 102. Howe, Henry F. 1994. Response of early- and late-flowering plants to fire season in experimental prairies. Ecological Applications. 4(1): 121-133. [27810]
  • 105. Hutchison, Max. 1992. Vegetation management guideline: Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense (L) Scop.). Natural Areas Journal. 12(3): 160-161. [19441]
  • 138. McKell, Cyrus M. 1950. A study of plant succession in the oak brush (Quercus gambelii) zone after fire. Salt Lake City, UT: University of Utah. 79 p. Thesis. [1608]
  • 163. Ossinger, Mary C. 1983. The Pseudotsuga-Tsuga/Rhododendron community in the northeast Olympic Mountains. Bellingham, WA: Western Washington University. 50 p. Thesis. [11435]
  • 182. Rice, Barry Meyers; Randall, John, compilers. 2001. Weed report: Cirsium arvense--Canada thistle. In: Wildland weeds management and research: 1998-99 weed survey. Davis, CA: The Nature Conservancy, Wildland Invasive Species Program. 21 p. On file with: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT. [38369]
  • 193. Schoenberger, M. Meyer; Perry, D. A. 1982. The effect of soil disturbance on growth and ectomycorrhizae of Douglas- fir and western hemlock seedlings: a greenhouse bioassay. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 12: 343-353. [12940]
  • 252. Young, Richard P. 1986. Fire ecology and management in plant communities of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Portland, OR: Oregon State University. 169 p. Thesis. [3745]
  • 44. Dailey, Ryan. 2001. Fire and thistles [Email to Kris Zouhar]. Sioux Falls, SD: The Nature Conservancy of the Dakotas, South Dakota. On file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT; RWU 4403 files. [38366]
  • 224. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 2001. Guide to noxious weed prevention practices. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 25 p. Available online: http://www.fs.fed.us/rangelands/ftp/invasives/documents/GuidetoNoxWeedPrevPractices_07052001.pdf [2005, October 25]. [37889]

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Broad-scale Impacts of Plant Response to Fire

More info for the terms: cover, density, fire severity, frequency, marsh, mesic, prescribed fire, presence, restoration, severity, tree, wildfire

Several studies have indicated the presence of Canada thistle in burned
areas where it was absent from the prefire community and/or adjacent unburned areas
(e.g., [138,158,163]). In Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, Canada thistle did not occur in unburned forest
and was not part of the initial postfire vegetation after a mixed-severity
wildfire. It established 2 years after fire on a moderate-severity site, and 9 years
after fire on a severe site. On both sites, it decreased to <1% cover by
postfire year 17 as cover of tree saplings increased [56]. Seedlings were found
in a red pine forest in
Minnesota, 3 years after fire, but not on adjacent unburned forest [3]. Canada thistle
established 3 years
after
mixed-severity fires in sedge meadows in Glacier National Park [242]. In Yellowstone National Park, Canada thistle established after 1988 fires and increased in density over time, 2 to 5 years
after fire, in all burn
severities. Density was lowest in the low-severity burns and highest in the stand-replacing burns [219]. Canada thistle established on both bulldozer lines and burned areas after a 1988
wildfire in Glacier National Park, but was not present in comparable undisturbed
sites [16].

Response of established Canada thistle plants to fire
is unclear, as there are mixed reports in the literature. A Canada thistle clone in a mid-boreal wetland site
was not noticeably changed when burned in the spring with a propane torch to
simulate both light and deep burns [98]. The authors concluded that there is a
moderate to high probability that Canada thistle and other
Eurasian xerophytic species will dominate these wet-meadows in the short term
after fire, and that they will continue to dominate small areas for longer
periods [100]. There were no significant differences (p<0.05) in Canada thistle cover after spring
burning in the prairie pothole region of Iowa [145]. In Mesa Verde
National Park, Colorado, populations of Canada thistle that were well established before
an August wildfire resprouted immediately
after the burn, and spread downstream in the canyons. Canada thistle and other
non-native species (e.g., cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) and musk thistle (Carduus
nutans)) continued to dominate the severely burned areas and
expanded their area by 260% 6 years after the wildfire [64,67]. In a native mixed-grass prairie in North
Dakota, late-spring and late-summer burning increased seed production and seedling
numbers in Canada thistle, but fewer
thistles were observed during the years following the burn than before or
during the year of the burn [201]. Dormant season (winter and early spring) burning in eastern Oregon resulted in fewer
total and fewer functional flowerheads on reproductive shoots of Canada thistle
when compared to unburned control. Also, Canada thistle plants on burned sites grew
more slowly and associated vegetation was more productive than on control sites.
It was concluded that burning reduced the relative abundance of Canada thistle and may be useful as a means of
halting its invasion or spread by maintaining a productive stand of native
vegetation [252]. The discrepancy in these reports is probably due to the
large number of variables that can affect the response of Canada thistle to
fire, including fire severity, for which we lack a standard nomenclature in the
literature. Other important variables include vegetation and site characteristics,
frequency, and season of burning.

Site differences such as soil moisture content, plant
community, and slope aspect can influence fire severity and may influence the
response of Canada thistle to fire. In a northwestern Minnesota prairie site,
prescribed burning on a nearly level mesic site in badly disturbed prairie had
no effect on Canada thistle flowering while flowering was inhibited on a level,
wet-mesic site in badly
disturbed prairie after burning [170].
On a forested site in western Montana that was harvested and burned, Canada thistle seems to have increased with
both light and severe burning in the fall, with larger increases on south
aspects compared with others [122]. Olson [162] provided evidence
that prescribed burning in the spring either reduced or did not change canopy
cover of Canada thistle in Minnesota. Results differed between sites, which
differed primarily in plant community type and in time and frequency of burning. 

Frequency, severity and season of burning may have a considerable effect on
Canada thistle response. In a study conducted on a mesic tallgrass prairie site
in Colorado, plots that were burned frequently (5 times over 7 years) had lower
density of Canada thistle than did and area that was burned only twice during
the same period. Results were inconclusive, however, since the final season of
the study saw increased spread of Canada thistle from the surrounding area,
probably due to clonal growth from existing plants [151]. Similarly,
observations in tallgrass prairie sites in South Dakota indicate that late spring
prescribed burning (when native species are still dormant) on a 4 to 5 year rotation (as per the historic fire regime)
encourages the growth of native plants and discourages the growth of Canada,
bull and musk thistles. Livestock use must be carefully timed following burning,
since grazing early in the growing season can potentially negate beneficial
effects of prescribed fire [44]. However, cover of
Canada thistle was essentially unchanged after 5 years of annual
spring burning in mid- to late April, with fires of low to moderate severity, in
a prairie site at Pipestone National Monument, Minnesota [15]. On a
common reed marsh in Manitoba, Canada thistle response to burning
varied with season of burn. Aboveground biomass, stem density, and seedling
density were unchanged on spring
burns, but increased on both summer and fall burns [213].
Results are presented below:

Biomass (g/m2)density (stems of nonseedling shoots/m2)density of seedlings (stems/m2)
Control5.0+7.0 0.9+0.90.2+0.4
Spring5.3+4.84.9+3.10.4+0.2
Summer63.3+39.420+3.91.5+3.3
Fall27.6+48.69.5+12.51.4+2.6

For further information on Canada thistle response to fire, see Fire Case Studies. The Research Project Summary
Vegetation response to restoration treatments in ponderosa pine-Douglas-fir forests of western Montana
provides information on prescribed fire and postfire response of several plant species including
Canada thistle.
  • 3. Ahlgren, Clifford E. 1979. Emergent seedlings on soil from burned and unburned red pine forest. Minnesota Forestry Research Notes No. 273. St. Paul, MN: University of Minnesota, College of Forestry. 4 p. [16910]
  • 15. Becker, Donald A. 1989. Five years of annual prairie burns. In: Bragg, Thomas A.; Stubbendieck, James, eds. Prairie pioneers: ecology, history and culture: Proceedings, 11th North American prairie conference; 1988 August 7-11; Lincoln, NE. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska: 163-168. [14037]
  • 16. Benson, Nathan C.; Kurth, Laurie L. 1995. Vegetation establishment on rehabilitated bulldozer lines after the 1988 Red Bench Fire in Glacier National Park. In: Brown, James K.; Mutch, Robert W.; Spoon, Charles W.; Wakimoto, Ronald H., technical coordinators. Proceedings: symposium on fire in wilderness and park management; 1993 March 30 - April 1; Missoula, MT. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-GTR-320. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station: 164-167. [26216]
  • 56. Doyle, Kathleen M.; Knight, Dennis H.; Taylor, Dale L.; Barmore, William J., Jr.; Benedict, James M. 1998. Seventeen years of forest succession following the Waterfalls Canyon Fire in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. International Journal of Wildland Fire. 8(1): 45-55. [29072]
  • 67. Floyd-Hanna, Lisa; Romme, William; Kendall, Deborah; Colyer, Marilyn. 1993. Succession and biological invasion at Mesa Verde NP. Park Science. 13(4): 16-18. [22580]
  • 98. Hogenbirk, John C.; Wein, Ross W. 1991. Fire and drought experiments in northern wetlands: a climate change analogue. Canadian Journal of Botany. 69: 1991-1997. [17127]
  • 100. Hogenbirk, John C.; Wein, Ross W. 1995. Fire in boreal wet-meadows: implications for climate change. In: Cerulean, Susan I.; Engstrom, R. Todd, eds. Fire in wetlands: a management perspective: Proceedings, 19th Tall Timbers fire ecology conference; 1993 November 3-6; Tallahassee, FL. No. 19. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 21-29. [26948]
  • 122. Lafferty, Ralph R. 1970. Effect of burn intensities on vegetal composition and canopy-coverage in a selected area of western Montana. Missoula, MT: University of Montana. 81 p. Thesis. [35756]
  • 138. McKell, Cyrus M. 1950. A study of plant succession in the oak brush (Quercus gambelii) zone after fire. Salt Lake City, UT: University of Utah. 79 p. Thesis. [1608]
  • 145. Messinger, Richard Duane. 1974. Effects of controlled burning on waterfowl nesting habitat in northwest Iowa. Ames, IA: Iowa State University. 49 p. Thesis. [20673]
  • 151. Morghan, Kimberly J. Reever; Seastedt, Timothy R.; Sinton, Penelope J. 2000. Frequent fire slows invasion of ungrazed tallgrass prairie by Canada thistle. Ecological Restoration. 18(2): 194-195. [38367]
  • 158. Neiland, Bonita J. 1958. Forest and adjacent burn in the Tillamook Burn area of northwestern Oregon. Ecology. 39(4): 660-671. [8879]
  • 162. Olson, Wendell W. 1975. Effects of controlled burning on grassland within the Tewaukon National Wildlife Refuge. Fargo, ND: North Dakota University of Agriculture and Applied Science. 137 p. Thesis. [15252]
  • 163. Ossinger, Mary C. 1983. The Pseudotsuga-Tsuga/Rhododendron community in the northeast Olympic Mountains. Bellingham, WA: Western Washington University. 50 p. Thesis. [11435]
  • 170. Pemble, R. H.; Van Amburg, G. L.; Mattson, Lyle. 1981. Intraspecific variation in flowering activity following a spring burn on a northwestern Minnesota prairie. In: Stuckey, Ronald L.; Reese, Karen J., eds. The prairie peninsula--in the "shadow" of Transeau: Proceedings, 6th North American prairie conference; 1978 August 12-17; Columbus, OH. Ohio Biological Survey: Biological Notes No. 15. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University, College of Biological Sciences: 235-240. [3435]
  • 201. Smith, Karen A. 1985. Canada thistle response to prescribed burning (North Dakota). Restoration and Management Notes. 3(2): Note 94. [37401]
  • 213. Thompson, D. J.; Shay, Jennifer M. 1989. First-year response of a Phragmites marsh community to seasonal burning. Canadian Journal of Botany. 67: 1448-1455. [7312]
  • 219. Turner, Monica G.; Romme, William H.; Gardner, Robert H.; Hargrove, William W. 1997. Effects of fire size and pattern on early succession in Yellowstone National Park. Ecological Monographs. 67(4): 411-433. [27851]
  • 242. Willard, E. Earl; Wakimoto, Ronald H.; Ryan, Kevin C. 1995. Vegetation recovery in sedge meadow communities within the Red Bench Fire, Glacier National Park. In: Cerulean, Susan I.; Engstrom, R. Todd, eds. Fire in wetlands: a management perspective: Proceedings, 19th Tall Timbers fire ecology conference; 1993 November 3-6; Tallahassee, FL. No. 19. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 102-110. [25778]
  • 252. Young, Richard P. 1986. Fire ecology and management in plant communities of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Portland, OR: Oregon State University. 169 p. Thesis. [3745]
  • 44. Dailey, Ryan. 2001. Fire and thistles [Email to Kris Zouhar]. Sioux Falls, SD: The Nature Conservancy of the Dakotas, South Dakota. On file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT; RWU 4403 files. [38366]
  • 64. Floyd-Hanna, Lisa; DaVega, Anne; Hanna, David; Romme, William H. 1997. Chapin 5 Fire vegetation monitoring and mitigation: First year report. [Mesa Verde, CO]: [U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Mesa Verde National Park]. Unpublished report on file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT. 7 p. [+ appendices]. [34181]

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Plant Response to Fire

More info for the terms: phenology, severity

Canada thistle is slightly damaged to enhanced by fire [252]. It is likely to survive fire and sprout vegetatively from its extensive perennial root system (e.g., [64,67,98,145,151,213,252]) (also see Asexual reproduction), or colonize bare ground via seedling establishment after fire [3,56,122,138,158,190,219,242]. For example, in Yellowstone National Park, Canada thistle is rare in unburned forests but locally abundant in burned areas [48]. When sites supporting Canada thistle are burned, its response is variable, and may be affected by season of burn, burn severity, site conditions, and plant community composition and phenology before and after the fire. Existing research provides no clear correlations with these variables.
  • 3. Ahlgren, Clifford E. 1979. Emergent seedlings on soil from burned and unburned red pine forest. Minnesota Forestry Research Notes No. 273. St. Paul, MN: University of Minnesota, College of Forestry. 4 p. [16910]
  • 48. Despain, Don G. 1990. Yellowstone vegetation: Consequences of environment and history in a natural setting. Boulder, CO: Roberts Rinehart, Inc. 239 p. [19374]
  • 56. Doyle, Kathleen M.; Knight, Dennis H.; Taylor, Dale L.; Barmore, William J., Jr.; Benedict, James M. 1998. Seventeen years of forest succession following the Waterfalls Canyon Fire in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. International Journal of Wildland Fire. 8(1): 45-55. [29072]
  • 67. Floyd-Hanna, Lisa; Romme, William; Kendall, Deborah; Colyer, Marilyn. 1993. Succession and biological invasion at Mesa Verde NP. Park Science. 13(4): 16-18. [22580]
  • 98. Hogenbirk, John C.; Wein, Ross W. 1991. Fire and drought experiments in northern wetlands: a climate change analogue. Canadian Journal of Botany. 69: 1991-1997. [17127]
  • 122. Lafferty, Ralph R. 1970. Effect of burn intensities on vegetal composition and canopy-coverage in a selected area of western Montana. Missoula, MT: University of Montana. 81 p. Thesis. [35756]
  • 138. McKell, Cyrus M. 1950. A study of plant succession in the oak brush (Quercus gambelii) zone after fire. Salt Lake City, UT: University of Utah. 79 p. Thesis. [1608]
  • 145. Messinger, Richard Duane. 1974. Effects of controlled burning on waterfowl nesting habitat in northwest Iowa. Ames, IA: Iowa State University. 49 p. Thesis. [20673]
  • 151. Morghan, Kimberly J. Reever; Seastedt, Timothy R.; Sinton, Penelope J. 2000. Frequent fire slows invasion of ungrazed tallgrass prairie by Canada thistle. Ecological Restoration. 18(2): 194-195. [38367]
  • 158. Neiland, Bonita J. 1958. Forest and adjacent burn in the Tillamook Burn area of northwestern Oregon. Ecology. 39(4): 660-671. [8879]
  • 190. Rowe, J. S. 1983. Concepts of fire effects on plant individuals and species. In: Wein, Ross W.; MacLean, David A., eds. The role of fire in northern circumpolar ecosystems. SCOPE 18. New York: John Wiley & Sons: 135-154. [2038]
  • 213. Thompson, D. J.; Shay, Jennifer M. 1989. First-year response of a Phragmites marsh community to seasonal burning. Canadian Journal of Botany. 67: 1448-1455. [7312]
  • 219. Turner, Monica G.; Romme, William H.; Gardner, Robert H.; Hargrove, William W. 1997. Effects of fire size and pattern on early succession in Yellowstone National Park. Ecological Monographs. 67(4): 411-433. [27851]
  • 242. Willard, E. Earl; Wakimoto, Ronald H.; Ryan, Kevin C. 1995. Vegetation recovery in sedge meadow communities within the Red Bench Fire, Glacier National Park. In: Cerulean, Susan I.; Engstrom, R. Todd, eds. Fire in wetlands: a management perspective: Proceedings, 19th Tall Timbers fire ecology conference; 1993 November 3-6; Tallahassee, FL. No. 19. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 102-110. [25778]
  • 252. Young, Richard P. 1986. Fire ecology and management in plant communities of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Portland, OR: Oregon State University. 169 p. Thesis. [3745]
  • 64. Floyd-Hanna, Lisa; DaVega, Anne; Hanna, David; Romme, William H. 1997. Chapin 5 Fire vegetation monitoring and mitigation: First year report. [Mesa Verde, CO]: [U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Mesa Verde National Park]. Unpublished report on file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT. 7 p. [+ appendices]. [34181]

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Fire Ecology

More info for the terms: eruption, fire frequency, fire regime, frequency, litter, severity, wildfire

Canada thistle is adapted to both survive fire on site, and to colonize recently burned sites with exposed bare soil. The extensive root system gives it the ability to survive major disturbances as observed, for example, at Mt. St. Helens, where Canada thistle was part of the initial community after the 1980 eruption. It survived landslide and resprouted from root and stem fragments after the blast [2,45,216]. It is likely to survive fire and sprout vegetatively from its extensive perennial root system (see Asexual reproduction), as was observed, for example, after an August wildfire in Mesa Verde National Park [64,67]. Additionally, there are numerous examples from the literature where Canada thistle seedlings established anywhere from 2 to 9 years after fire [3,56,122,138,158,190,219,242], presumably from wind-dispersed seed, although this is not always clear in the literature.

Canada thistle may change the fire ecology of the site in which it occurs by its abundant, flammable aboveground biomass. For example, in boreal wet-meadows, investigators suggest that Canada thistle has the potential to increase fire frequency and perhaps severity as a result of its abundant and readily ignited litter [100].

The following table provides some historic fire regime intervals for habitats in which Canada thistle may occur:

Community or Ecosystem Dominant Species Fire Return Interval Range (years)
silver fir-Douglas-fir Abies amabilis-Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii > 200 
grand fir A. grandis 35-200 [9]
maple-beech-birch Acer-Fagus-Betula > 1000 
silver maple-American elm A. saccharinum-Ulmus americana
sugar maple A. s. > 1000 
sugar maple-basswood A. s.-Tilia americana > 1000 [233]
bluestem prairie Andropogon gerardii var. gerardii-Schizachyrium scoparium 118,168]
Nebraska sandhills prairie A. g. var. paucipilus-S. s.
bluestem-Sacahuista prairie A. littoralis-Spartina spartinae
sagebrush steppe Artemisia tridentata/Pseudoroegneria spicata 20-70 [168]
basin big sagebrush A. t. var. tridentata 12-43 [191]
mountain big sagebrush A. t. var. vaseyana 20-60 [10,30]
Wyoming big sagebrush A. t. var. wyomingensis 10-70 (40**) [231,251]
coastal sagebrush A. californica
plains grasslands Bouteloua spp.
blue grama-needle-and-thread grass-western wheatgrass B. gracilis-Hesperostipa comata-Pascopyrum smithii
blue grama-buffalo grass B. g.-Buchloe dactyloides
cheatgrass Bromus tectorum
California montane chaparral Ceanothus and/or Arctostaphylos spp. 50-100 [168]
sugarberry-America elm-green ash Celtis laevigata-Ulmus americana-Fraxinus pennsylvanica 233]
curlleaf mountain-mahogany* Cercocarpus ledifolius 13-1000 [11,195]
mountain-mahogany-Gambel oak scrub C. l.-Quercus gambelii
northern cordgrass prairie Distichlis spicata-Spartina spp. 1-3 [168]
beech-sugar maple Fagus spp.-Acer saccharum > 1000 [233]
California steppe Festuca-Danthonia spp. 168]
black ash Fraxinus nigra 233]
juniper-oak savanna Juniperus ashei-Quercus virginiana
Ashe juniper J. a.
western juniper J. occidentalis 20-70 
Rocky Mountain juniper J. scopulorum
tamarack Larix laricina 35-200 [168]
western larch L. occidentalis 25-100 [9]
yellow-poplar Liriodendron tulipifera 233]
wheatgrass plains grasslands Pascopyrum smithii 168]
Great Lakes spruce-fir Picea-Abies spp. 35 to > 200 
northeastern spruce-fir P.-A. spp. 35-200 [57]
Engelmann spruce-subalpine fir P. engelmannii-A. lasiocarpa 35 to > 200 [9]
black spruce P. mariana 35-200 
conifer bog* P. m.-Larix laricina 35-200 [57]
blue spruce* P. pungens 35-200 [9]
red spruce* P. rubens 35-200 [57]
pine-cypress forest Pinus-Cupressus spp. 9]
pinyon-juniper P.-Juniperus spp. 168]
whitebark pine* P. albicaulis 50-200 [9]
jack pine P. banksiana 57]
Rocky Mountain lodgepole pine* P. contorta var. latifolia 25-300+ [8,9,187]
Sierra lodgepole pine* P. c. var. murrayana 35-200 [9]
shortleaf pine P. echinata 2-15 
shortleaf pine-oak P. e.-Quercus spp. 233]
Colorado pinyon P. edulis 10-49 [168]
South Florida slash pine P. elliottii var. densa 1-5 [156,233]
Jeffrey pine P. jeffreyi 5-30 
western white pine* P. monticola 50-200 
Pacific ponderosa pine* P. ponderosa var. ponderosa 1-47 
interior ponderosa pine* P. p. var. scopulorum 2-10 
Arizona pine P. p. var. arizonica 2-10 [9]
Table Mountain pine P. pungens 233]
red pine (Great Lakes region) P. resinosa 10-200 (10**) [57,72]
red-white-jack pine* P. r.-P. strobus-P. banksiana 10-300 [57,90]
pitch pine P. rigida 6-25 [29,91]
eastern white pine P. strobus 35-200 
eastern white pine-eastern hemlock P. s.-Tsuga canadensis 35-200 
eastern white pine-northern red oak-red maple P. s.-Quercus rubra-Acer rubrum 35-200 
loblolly pine P. taeda 3-8 
loblolly-shortleaf pine P. t.-P. echinata 10 to
Virginia pine P. virginiana 10 to
Virginia pine-oak P. v.-Quercus spp. 10 to 233]
eastern cottonwood Populus deltoides 168]
aspen-birch P. tremuloides-Betula papyrifera 35-200 [57,233]
quaking aspen (west of the Great Plains) P. t. 7-120 [9,82,141]
black cherry-sugar maple Prunus serotina-Acer saccharum > 1000 [233]
mountain grasslands Pseudoroegneria spicata 3-40 (10**) [8,9]
Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir* Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca 25-100 [9]
coastal Douglas-fir* P. m. var. menziesii 40-240 [9,153,183]
California mixed evergreen P. m. var. m.-Lithocarpus densiflorus-Arbutus m.
California oakwoods Quercus spp. 9]
oak-hickory Q.-Carya spp. 233]
oak-juniper woodland (Southwest) Q.-Juniperus spp. 168]
northeastern oak-pine Q.-Pinus spp. 10 to 233]
coast live oak Q. agrifolia 9]
white oak-black oak-northern red oak Q. alba-Q. velutina-Q. rubra 233]
canyon live oak Q. chrysolepis
blue oak-foothills pine Q. douglasii-P. sabiana 9]
northern pin oak Q. ellipsoidalis 233]
Oregon white oak Q. garryana 9]
bear oak Q. ilicifolia 233]
California black oak Q. kelloggii 5-30 [168
bur oak Q. macrocarpa
chestnut oak Q. prinus 3-8 
northern red oak Q. rubra 10 to
post oak-blackjack oak Q. stellata-Q. marilandica
black oak Q. velutina
live oak Q. virginiana 10 to233]
interior live oak Q. wislizenii 9]
blackland prairie Schizachyrium scoparium-Nassella leucotricha
Fayette prairie S. s.-Buchloe dactyloides
little bluestem-grama prairie S. s.-Bouteloua spp.
tule marshes Scirpus and/or Typha spp. 168]
redwood Sequoia sempervirens 5-200 [9,62,209]
western redcedar-western hemlock Thuja plicata-Tsuga heterophylla > 200 [9]
eastern hemlock-yellow birch T. canadensis-Betula alleghaniensis > 200 [233]
western hemlock-Sitka spruce T. h.-Picea sitchensis > 200 
mountain hemlock* T. mertensiana 35 to > 200 [9]
elm-ash-cottonwood Ulmus-Fraxinus-Populus spp. 57,233]
*fire return interval varies widely; trends in variation are noted in the species summary
**mean
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  • 100. Hogenbirk, John C.; Wein, Ross W. 1995. Fire in boreal wet-meadows: implications for climate change. In: Cerulean, Susan I.; Engstrom, R. Todd, eds. Fire in wetlands: a management perspective: Proceedings, 19th Tall Timbers fire ecology conference; 1993 November 3-6; Tallahassee, FL. No. 19. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 21-29. [26948]
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Successional Status

More info on this topic.

More info for the terms: cover, eruption, forbs, marsh, natural, shrub, tree

Canada thistle is an early successional species that emerges from seed or root fragments shortly after disturbance. It grows best in open sunny sites, though may be somewhat tolerant of shade (see "Site Characteristics"). Canada thistle may establish in natural areas as part of the initial plant community after logging [106,109,160,250], fire [16,80,138,163,188,193,242], volcanic eruption (debris deposit, landslide) [2,45,216,217], grazing [143], and road building [140]. Canada thistle and other introduced species are taking over large tracts of logged, burned, or otherwise disturbed land in British Columbia [220]. In northern Idaho, Canada thistle establishes following clearcutting with soil displacement. With low soil displacement, the plant community follows a successional sequence that favors the eventual establishment of tree and shrub species, but with heavy soil displacement, a persistent forb-rich community, including Canada thistle, develops with few tree species present, and very little species replacement over time [106]. Canada thistle may not establish immediately after logging and fire disturbances, but may be delayed for 2 or more seasons [3,56,164,242]. Canada thistle was among the 3 most common species to survive a debris deposit created by the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, where it sprouted from transported root fragments, and from seed [2,45,216]. Canada thistle is also found among the emergent vegetation after drawdown in the Delta Marsh, Manitoba [142,229]. In a study comparing possible control methods for perennial pepperweed, Canada thistle established, along with cheatgrass, after disking and herbicide treatments that reduced cover of native forbs and grasses [112].
  • 2. Adams, A. B.; Dale, V. H.; Smith, E. P.; Kruckeberg, A. R. 1987. Plant survival, growth form and regeneration following the 18 May 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, Washington. Northwest Science. 61(3): 160-170. [6886]
  • 3. Ahlgren, Clifford E. 1979. Emergent seedlings on soil from burned and unburned red pine forest. Minnesota Forestry Research Notes No. 273. St. Paul, MN: University of Minnesota, College of Forestry. 4 p. [16910]
  • 16. Benson, Nathan C.; Kurth, Laurie L. 1995. Vegetation establishment on rehabilitated bulldozer lines after the 1988 Red Bench Fire in Glacier National Park. In: Brown, James K.; Mutch, Robert W.; Spoon, Charles W.; Wakimoto, Ronald H., technical coordinators. Proceedings: symposium on fire in wilderness and park management; 1993 March 30 - April 1; Missoula, MT. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-GTR-320. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station: 164-167. [26216]
  • 45. Dale, Virginia H. 1989. Wind dispersed seeds and plant recovery on the Mount St. Helens debris avalanche. Canadian Journal of Botany. 67: 1434-1441. [12670]
  • 56. Doyle, Kathleen M.; Knight, Dennis H.; Taylor, Dale L.; Barmore, William J., Jr.; Benedict, James M. 1998. Seventeen years of forest succession following the Waterfalls Canyon Fire in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. International Journal of Wildland Fire. 8(1): 45-55. [29072]
  • 80. Grant, Martin L. 1929. The burn succession in Itasca County, Minnesota. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota. 63 p. Thesis. [36527]
  • 106. Jensen, Mark E. 1991. Ecological classification and cumulative soil effects. In: Harvey, Alan E.; Neuenschwander, Leon F., compilers. Proceedings--management and productivity of western-montane forest soils; 1990 April 10-12; Boise, ID. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-280. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station: 218-223. [15985]
  • 109. Kellman, M. C. 1969. Plant species interrelationships in a secondary succession in coastal British Columbia. Syesis. 2: 201-212. [6589]
  • 112. Kilbride, Kevin M.; Paveglio, Fred L.; Pyke, David A.; Laws, Margaret S.; Joel, H. David. 1997. Use of integrated pest management to restore meadows infested with perennial pepperweed at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. In: Management of perennial pepperweed (tall whitetop). Special Report 972. Corvallis, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service; Oregon State University, Agricultural Experiment Station: 31-35. [28215]
  • 138. McKell, Cyrus M. 1950. A study of plant succession in the oak brush (Quercus gambelii) zone after fire. Salt Lake City, UT: University of Utah. 79 p. Thesis. [1608]
  • 140. Meier, Gretchen; Weaver, T. 1997. Desirables and weeds for roadside management--a northern Rocky Mountain catalogue. Report No. RHWA/MT-97/8115. Final report: July 1994-December 1997. Helena, MT: State of Montana Department of Transportation, Research, Development, and Technology Transfer Program. 145 p. [29135]
  • 142. Merendino, M. Todd; Smith, Loren M.; Murkin, Henry R.; Pederson, Roger L. 1990. The response of prairie wetland vegetation to seasonality of drawdown. Wildlife Society Bulletin. 18(3): 245-251. [17645]
  • 143. Merigliano, Michael F. 1996. Ecology and management of the South Fork Snake River cottonwood forest. Tech. Bulletin 96-9. Boise, ID: U.S. Department ot the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Idaho State Office. 79 p. [27350]
  • 163. Ossinger, Mary C. 1983. The Pseudotsuga-Tsuga/Rhododendron community in the northeast Olympic Mountains. Bellingham, WA: Western Washington University. 50 p. Thesis. [11435]
  • 164. Outcalt, Kenneth Wayne; White, Edwin H. 1981. Phytosociological changes in understory vegetation following timber harvest in northern Minnesota. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 11: 175-183. [16301]
  • 188. Romme, William H.; Bohland, Laura; Persichetty, Cynthia; Caruso, Tanya. 1995. Germination ecology of some common forest herbs in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, U.S.A. Arctic and Alpine Research. 27(4): 407-412. [26049]
  • 193. Schoenberger, M. Meyer; Perry, D. A. 1982. The effect of soil disturbance on growth and ectomycorrhizae of Douglas- fir and western hemlock seedlings: a greenhouse bioassay. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 12: 343-353. [12940]
  • 216. Titus, Jonathan H.; Moore, Scott; Arnot, Mildred; Titus, Priscilla J. 1998. Inventory of the vascular flora of the blast zone, Mount St. Helens, Washington. Madrono. 45(2): 146-161. [30322]
  • 217. Tsuyuzaki, Shiro; Titus, Jonathan H.; del Moral, Roger. 1997. Seedling establishment patterns on the Pumice Plain, Mount St. Helens, Washington. Journal of Vegetation Science. 8(5): 727-734. [30164]
  • 220. Turner, Nancy J. 1999. "Time to burn": Traditional use of fire to enhance resource production by aboriginal peoples in British Columbia. In: Boyd, Robert, ed. Indians, fire and the land in the Pacific Northwest. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University Press: 185-218. [35574]
  • 229. van der Valk, A. G. 1981. Succession in wetlands: A Gleasonian approach. Ecology. 62(3): 688-696. [15751]
  • 242. Willard, E. Earl; Wakimoto, Ronald H.; Ryan, Kevin C. 1995. Vegetation recovery in sedge meadow communities within the Red Bench Fire, Glacier National Park. In: Cerulean, Susan I.; Engstrom, R. Todd, eds. Fire in wetlands: a management perspective: Proceedings, 19th Tall Timbers fire ecology conference; 1993 November 3-6; Tallahassee, FL. No. 19. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 102-110. [25778]
  • 250. Young, J. A.; Hedrick, D. W.; Keniston, R. F. 1967. Forest cover and logging--herbage and browse production in the mixed coniferous forest of northeastern Oregon. Journal of Forestry. 65: 807-813. [16290]
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Regeneration Processes

More info for the terms: adventitious, competition, ecotype, marsh, natural, pappus, presence

Canada thistle reproduces both sexually by seed and vegetatively by creeping roots. Generally, vegetative reproduction contributes to local spread and seeding to long distance dispersal. Introduction into new areas is mostly by wind- or water-borne seed, or by seed in contaminated crop seed, hay or machinery [55,105]. Canada thistle allocates most of its reproductive energy to vegetative propagation, and a patch can spread rapidly by vegetative means under favorable conditions. Total allocation of dry weight to sexual reproduction was only 7% for Canada thistle grown in pots [23]. However, the contribution of sexual reproduction to the survival and spread of Canada thistle may be underestimated and may be an important mechanism for initiating continued genetic diversity in a clonal population [89].

Sexual reproduction: Shoot elongation and flowering in Canada thistle are induced by 15-hour day length, therefore flowering and seed production will be limited or prevented in regions with shorter summer days [84]. A typical Canada thistle shoot may produce 32 to 69 flowerheads per shoot (1-5 per branch) on average, but can produce as many as 100 flowerheads in a season [150,152]. Canada thistle is "imperfectly dioecious" [55], with male and female flowers occurring on separate plants. Up to 26% of "male" plants are actually self-fertile hermaphrodites or subhermaphrodites that occasionally produce seed [108].

Seed production: Canada thistle is insect pollinated, primarily by honeybees [55,105,150]. Male and female plants must be located within a few hundred yards of each other for insect pollination and seed set to occur [84]. Seed set is highest when male and female plants are intermixed and decreases when female plants are more than 164 feet (50 m) from male plants [125]. Since Canada thistle can grow in large patches, it is not uncommon to find sterile heads of female flowers [125,152]. Canada thistle has a reputation for producing few viable seeds, but the literature gives a wide range of estimates for seed production with numbers ranging from 0 to 40,000 seeds per stem [38,89]. Reports of average seed-set per flowerhead range from 21-93 [89,152]. Kay [108] reports that females produce an average of 30 to 70 seeds/flowerhead and males average 2 to 10 seeds/head. The number of flowerheads per stem reported ranges from 0 to 100 [89]. In annual grasslands in northern California where biomass of Canada thistle was 13+ 8 g/m2, seed production was 1300 seeds/m2, seed rain was 80+ 50 seeds/m2, and germinable seeds in the top 2 cm of soil were 280+110/m2 [96]. Inefficient pollination and genetic variability may contribute to poor seed yields [89]. Seeds of Canada thistle are subject to predation by insects before dispersal, but information is more qualitative than quantitative [55,89]. Weather extremes (cool and moist or hot and dry) can interfere with pollination, so some years even female plants do not produce much seed [61].

Seed dispersal: Canada thistle seeds are released about 2-3 weeks after pollination [123]. They are equipped with a pappus, loosely attached to the seed tip, that enables wind dispersal, and have good aerodynamic efficiency [198]. Canada thistle seeds have been observed windborne on the prairie several hundred meters from the nearest source population [175]. Evidence from seed rain studies on Mount St. Helens, Washington suggests that Canada thistle seeds can travel several kilometers [249]. This dispersal mechanism accounts for the numerous examples of Canada thistle seedling establishment after disturbance in natural areas [45,106,109,216,220], especially after fire [138,163,188,193]. However, wind dispersal has not been considered a major factor in its spread, since the pappus readily breaks off, leaving the achenes within the seedheads [23]. In developed areas, seeds are more commonly spread by animals, in hay, contaminated crop seed, machinery, and irrigation water [161]. Observations in Rocky Mountain National Park  indicate that trails, especially those used by horses, are major invasion pathways for Canada thistle [139]. Livestock consuming unprocessed hay before entering national forests will likely spread more Canada thistle seeds than those consuming feed pellets, since pellet manufacturing destroys 99% of viable Canadian thistle seed when it includes grinding and screening [35].

Viability and germination: Canada thistle seeds mature quickly and most are capable of germinating 8 to 11 days after the flowers open, even if the plants are cut when flowering. Moore [150] summarized research indicating that almost all Canada thistle seed can germinate upon dispersal, although germination is extremely variable (0-95%). Viability of seeds during the 1st season after dispersal may be as high as 90% [84]. Most seeds germinate in the spring after the year in which they are produced [97,188], with some seeds producing basal leaves before winter and emerging to flower the next spring [105]. However, Heimann and Cussans [89] indicate that seedlings are not always able to survive the winter. Germination may be affected by ecotype, temperature, day length, depth of seed burial, substrate stratification, and seed freshness [161]. Seeds from "male" plants are smaller and percent germination is lower [108]. Temperature requirements for germination were summarized by Moore [150]; the effects of light, pH, and salinity are summarized by Donald [55]. Canada thistle seeds germinate best in warm temperatures (68 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (20-40 °C)), with alternating light and dark periods [22,188,245]. Germination in Canada thistle was best after 0.5 to 16 days at 88 to 108 degrees Fahrenheit (31-42 °C) [212]. At lower temperatures germination is aided by high light intensity [89,97]. Germination at higher temperatures can help ensure that maximum germination takes place during warmer periods of the year [89]. Canada thistle seeds are somewhat tolerant of heat, and some were still viable after 10 minutes at 216 degrees Fahrenheit (102 °C) and 2 minutes at 504 degrees Fahrenheit (262 °C), although viability was decreased at these temperatures compared to unheated controls [212]. Canada thistle seeds germinate over a wide range of soil moisture [245]. Heimann and Cussans [89] provide a summary indicating that Canada thistle seed can germinate on the soil surface, but that germination is best when seeds are buried 0.2 to 0.6 inch (0.5-1.5 cm) deep. Emergence as deep as 6 cm in some soil types has been reported [245]. Most germination studies have been done under artificial conditions, and factors influencing germination in the field are far more complex [89].

Seed banking: The soil seed bank does not usually contain large numbers of Canada thistle seeds [36,184], although there is evidence of seed banking in a coastal British Columbia coniferous forest soil [110], in mature forest sites in central Idaho [117], and in the Delta Marsh in Manitoba [229]. Length of survival is related to depth of burial, with seeds surviving up to 22 years when they are buried more than 8 inches (20 cm) deep [78]. Under more natural conditions of shallower burial and periodic soil disturbance, Canada thistle seeds are more short lived (<5 years), with most seed being lost from the soil seed bank by germination during the 1st year [55]. Seeds that have been in water for several months can still be viable [84]. Donald [55] summarizes the research on seed banking in Canada thistle and the effects of seed immersion in water.

Seedling establishment: Canada thistle seedlings usually start growing slowly and are sensitive to competition and shading [55,89,128]. Seedlings grow poorly in very moist, poorly aerated soils and do not tolerate drought stress [245]. Before seedlings become perennial, they are also highly susceptible to tillage [152].

Asexual reproduction: Vegetative spread of Canada thistle can occur from horizontal extension of the root system, from root fragments, or from subterranean stem tissue [131]. Spread can be rapid when there is little competition, with 13 to 20 feet (4-6 m) of horizontal root growth possible in one season [97,185]. Canada thistle can develop new aerial shoots at any location along the root length, from the original vertical root, or from buds on lateral roots. Within a few weeks of germination, a Canada thistle seedling with at least 4 true leaves can begin producing root buds that can eventually produce new shoots [84]. Buds on lateral roots may form new adventitious shoots as frequently as 0.3 to 1-inch (0.8 to 2.4 cm) intervals [103], although the number of root buds is likely to vary from place to place and year to year [157]. A single Canada thistle plant can potentially produce 26 adventitious shoots, 154 adventitious root buds, and 364 feet (111 m) of roots after 18 weeks of growth [152,157]. It is possible that a colony of male plants would maintain itself regardless of whether it produced fruits [240].

Root buds are inhibited by the presence of the main shoot, primarily due to a competition for water [104], and new root bud growth is highest during late fall and winter months following death of aerial shoots [137]. When the main shoot is removed (e.g. as by mowing) the root buds are released, and new shoots emerge rapidly, especially when humidity is high [104,157]. Wilson [245] found that some 19-day old plants were capable of regenerating top-growth after clipping, and that 40-day old plants could produce 2 or 3 shoots after clipping. Root fragments as short as 0.2 inch (6 mm) and more than 6 weeks but less than 2 years old can regenerate entire plants, regardless of whether they have identifiable root buds at the time [157]. Nadeau and Vanden Born [157] observed that an 18-week-old plant had the potential of producing 930 shoots if its root system was cut into 10-cm-long pieces. 

Vegetative spread of Canada thistle may also occur from subterranean stem tissue that can produce shoot buds and adventitious roots at each node. Partially buried stem sections from the postbloom stage survived and produced adventitious roots that over wintered and produced new infestations the following spring [131]. Similarly, Canada thistle can survive disturbance to be part of the early successional community in natural areas by resprouting from buried root and stem fragments [2,45,188,216].

  • 2. Adams, A. B.; Dale, V. H.; Smith, E. P.; Kruckeberg, A. R. 1987. Plant survival, growth form and regeneration following the 18 May 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, Washington. Northwest Science. 61(3): 160-170. [6886]
  • 22. Bostock, S. J. 1978. Seed germination strategies of five perennial weeds. Oecologia. 36: 113-126. [37496]
  • 23. Bostock, S. J.; Benton, R. A. 1979. The reproductive strategies of five perennial Compositae. Journal of Ecology. 67(1): 91-107. [37263]
  • 35. Cash, S. Dennis; Zamora, David L.; Lenssen, Andrew W. 1998. Viability of weed seeds in feed pellet processing. Journal of Range Management. 51(2): 181-185. [28433]
  • 36. Champness, Stella S.; Morris, Kathleen. 1948. The population of buried viable seeds in relation to contrasting pasture and soil types. Journal of Ecology. 36: 149-173. [20023]
  • 38. Cheater, Mark. 1992. Alien invasion. Nature Conservancy. 42(5): 24-29. [19483]
  • 45. Dale, Virginia H. 1989. Wind dispersed seeds and plant recovery on the Mount St. Helens debris avalanche. Canadian Journal of Botany. 67: 1434-1441. [12670]
  • 55. Donald, William W. 1994. The biology of Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense). Reviews of Weed Science. 6: 77-101. [37298]
  • 78. Goss, W. L. 1924. The vitality of buried seeds. Journal of Agricultural Research. 29(7): 349-362. [35541]
  • 84. Haderlie, Lloyd C.; Dewey, Steve; Kidder, Dan. 1987. Canada thistle: Biology and control. Bulletin No. 666. Moscow, ID: University of Idaho, College of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service. 7 p. [6100]
  • 89. Heimann, B.; Cussans, G. W. 1996. The importance of seeds and sexual reproduction in the population biology of Cirsium arvense--a literature review. Weed Research. 36(6): 493-503. [37261]
  • 96. Hobbs, R. J.; Mooney, H. A. 1986. Community changes following shrub invasion of grassland. Oecologia. 70: 508-513. [4909]
  • 97. Hoefer, Raymond H. 1981. Growth and development of Canada thistle. Proceedings, North Central Weed Control Conference. 36: 153-157. [37690]
  • 103. Hulten, Eric. 1968. Flora of Alaska and neighboring territories. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. 1008 p. [13403]
  • 104. Hunter, J. H.; Hsiao, A. I.; McIntyre, G. I. 1985. Some effects of humidity on the growth and development of Cirsium arvense. Botanical Gazette. 146(4): 483-488. [37253]
  • 105. Hutchison, Max. 1992. Vegetation management guideline: Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense (L) Scop.). Natural Areas Journal. 12(3): 160-161. [19441]
  • 106. Jensen, Mark E. 1991. Ecological classification and cumulative soil effects. In: Harvey, Alan E.; Neuenschwander, Leon F., compilers. Proceedings--management and productivity of western-montane forest soils; 1990 April 10-12; Boise, ID. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-280. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station: 218-223. [15985]
  • 108. Kay, Q. O. N. 1985. Hermaphrodites and subhermaphrodites in a reputedly dioecious plant, Cirsium arvense (L.) Scop. The New Phytologist. 100: 457-472. [37495]
  • 109. Kellman, M. C. 1969. Plant species interrelationships in a secondary succession in coastal British Columbia. Syesis. 2: 201-212. [6589]
  • 110. Kellman, M. C. 1970. The viable seed content of some forest soil in coastal British Columbia. Canadian Journal of Botany. 48: 1383-1385. [6469]
  • 117. Kramer, Neal B.; Johnson, Frederic D. 1987. Mature forest seed banks of three habitat types in central Idaho. Canadian Journal of Botany. 65: 1961-1966. [3961]
  • 123. LaLonde, R. G.; Roitberg, B. D. 1989. Resource limitation and offspring size and number trade-offs in Cirsium arvense (Asteraceae). American Journal of Botany. 76(8): 1107-1113. [37400]
  • 125. Lalonde, R. G.; Roitberg, B. D. 1994. Mating system, life-history, and reproduction in Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense; Asteraceae). American Journal of Botany. 81(1): 21-28. [37269]
  • 128. Leininger, Wayne C. 1988. Non-chemical alternatives for managing selected plant species in the western United States. XCM-118. Fort Collins, CO: Colorado State University, Cooperative Extension. In cooperation with: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 47 p. [13038]
  • 131. Magnusson, Mark U.; Wyse, Donald L.; Spitzmueller, Joseph M. 1987. Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) propagation from stem sections. Weed Science. 35: 637-639. [3907]
  • 137. McAllister, Ray S.; Haderlie, LLoyd C. 1985. Seasonal variations in Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) root bud growth and root carbohydrate reserves. Weed Science. 33: 44-49. [1563]
  • 138. McKell, Cyrus M. 1950. A study of plant succession in the oak brush (Quercus gambelii) zone after fire. Salt Lake City, UT: University of Utah. 79 p. Thesis. [1608]
  • 139. McLendon, Terry. 1992. Factors controlling the distribution of Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) in montane ecosystems: Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. Annual Report: NPS Contract Number CA 1268-1-9002; Reporting period 17 April 1991 - 30 April 1992. Unpublished report on file with: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountian Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT. 36 p. [38368]
  • 150. Moore, R. J. 1975. The biology of Canadian weeds. 13. Cirsium arvense (L.) Scop. Canadian Journal of Plant Science. 55(4): 1033-1048. [37311]
  • 152. Morishita, Don W. 1999. Canada thistle. In: Sheley, Roger L.; Petroff, Janet K., eds. Biology and management of noxious rangeland weeds. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University Press: 162-174. [35719]
  • 157. Nadeau, L. B.; Vanden Born, W. H. 1989. The root system of Canada thistle. Canadian Journal of Plant Science. 69(4): 1199-1206. [37285]
  • 163. Ossinger, Mary C. 1983. The Pseudotsuga-Tsuga/Rhododendron community in the northeast Olympic Mountains. Bellingham, WA: Western Washington University. 50 p. Thesis. [11435]
  • 175. Platt, William J. 1975. The colonization and formation of equilibrium plant species associations on badger disturbances in a tall-grass prairie. Ecological Monographs. 45: 285-305. [6903]
  • 184. Roberts, H. A. 1981. Seed banks in soils. Applied Biology. 5: 1-55. [2002]
  • 185. Rogers, Charles F. 1928. Canada thistle and Russian knapweed and their control. Bulletin 348. Fort Collins, CO: Colorado Agricultural College, Colorado Experiment Station. 44 p. [37692]
  • 188. Romme, William H.; Bohland, Laura; Persichetty, Cynthia; Caruso, Tanya. 1995. Germination ecology of some common forest herbs in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, U.S.A. Arctic and Alpine Research. 27(4): 407-412. [26049]
  • 193. Schoenberger, M. Meyer; Perry, D. A. 1982. The effect of soil disturbance on growth and ectomycorrhizae of Douglas- fir and western hemlock seedlings: a greenhouse bioassay. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 12: 343-353. [12940]
  • 198. Sheldon, J. C.; Burrows, F. M. 1973. The dispersal effectiveness of the achene-pappus units of selected Compositae in steady winds with convection. New Phytologist. 72: 665-675. [24023]
  • 212. Thompson, A. J.; Jones, N. E.; Blair, A. M. 1997. The effect of temperature on viability of imbibed weed seeds. Annals of Applied Biology. 130(1): 123-134. [37256]
  • 216. Titus, Jonathan H.; Moore, Scott; Arnot, Mildred; Titus, Priscilla J. 1998. Inventory of the vascular flora of the blast zone, Mount St. Helens, Washington. Madrono. 45(2): 146-161. [30322]
  • 220. Turner, Nancy J. 1999. "Time to burn": Traditional use of fire to enhance resource production by aboriginal peoples in British Columbia. In: Boyd, Robert, ed. Indians, fire and the land in the Pacific Northwest. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University Press: 185-218. [35574]
  • 229. van der Valk, A. G. 1981. Succession in wetlands: A Gleasonian approach. Ecology. 62(3): 688-696. [15751]
  • 240. Whitson, Tom D.; Burrill, Larry C.; Dewey, Steven A.; Cudney, David W.; Nelson, B. E.; Lee, Richard D.; Parker, Robert. 1999. Weeds of the West. 5th edition. Laramie, WY: University of Wyoming. 630 p. In cooperation with: Western Society of Weed Science; Western United States Land Grant Universities, Cooperative Extension Services. [35557]
  • 245. Wilson, R. G., Jr. 1979. Germination and seedling development of Canada thistle. Weed Science. 27(2): 146-151. [37402]
  • 249. Wood, David M.; del Moral, Roger. 2000. Seed rain during early primary succession on Mount St. Helens, Washington. Madrono. 47(1): 1-9. [37014]
  • 61. Fawcett, Richard S.; Jennings, Vivan M. 1977. Weed control: Canada thistle [Cirsium arvense (L) Scop.]. Pm-769. Ames, IA: Iowa State University, Cooperative Extension Service. 3 p. [37279]
  • 161. Nuzzo, Victoria. 1997. Element stewardship abstract: Cirsium arvense. In: Weeds on the web: The Nature Conservancy wildland invasive species program, [Online]. Available: http://tncweeds.ucdavis.edu/esadocs/cirsarve.html [2001, July 01]. [37486]

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Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)

More info on this topic.

More info for the term: geophyte

RAUNKIAER [178] LIFE FORM:
Geophyte
  • 178. Raunkiaer, C. 1934. The life forms of plants and statistical plant geography. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 632 p. [2843]

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Life Form

More info for the term: forb

Forb

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Immediate Effect of Fire

Fire kills the aboveground portion of Canada thistle plants, while the roots can survive severe fires [98,252].
  • 98. Hogenbirk, John C.; Wein, Ross W. 1991. Fire and drought experiments in northern wetlands: a climate change analogue. Canadian Journal of Botany. 69: 1991-1997. [17127]
  • 252. Young, Richard P. 1986. Fire ecology and management in plant communities of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Portland, OR: Oregon State University. 169 p. Thesis. [3745]

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Life History and Behavior

Reproduction

Biology and Spread

Canada thistle produces an abundance of bristly-plumed seeds which are easily dispersed by the wind. Most of the seeds germinate within a year, but some may remain viable in the soil for up to twenty years or more. Vegetative reproduction in Canada thistle is aided by a fibrous taproot capable of sending out lateral roots as deep as 3 feet below ground, and from which shoots sprout up at frequent intervals. It also readily regenerates from root fragments less than an inch in length.

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U.S. National Park Service Weeds Gone Wild website

Source: U.S. National Park Service

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Cirsium arvense

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 18
Specimens with Barcodes: 41
Species With Barcodes: 1
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© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Barcode data: Cirsium setosum

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Cirsium setosum

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 5
Specimens with Barcodes: 5
Species With Barcodes: 1
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Conservation

Conservation Status

NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: GNR - Not Yet Ranked

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Management

Prevention and Control

Management of Canada thistle is very difficult and requires repeated applications of systemic herbicides including products not covered in this guide. Glyphosate is not very effective against it. Other sources will likely need to be contacted for more effective herbicides.

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Cover Value

More info for the term: cover

There is little information on whether Canada thistle provides cover for wildlife species. Canada thistle provided cover for endangered Columbian white-tailed deer in Washington in the summer, allowing deer to utilize previously unused areas [210].
  • 210. Suring, Lowell H.; Vohs, Paul A., Jr. 1979. Habitat use by Columbian white-tailed deer. Journal of Wildlife Management. 43(3): 610-619. [37245]

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Importance to Livestock and Wildlife

More info for the term: marsh

Livestock tend to dislike and avoid Canada thistle and may also reduce their consumption of desirable plants in the vicinity of Canada thistle colonies [128,146]. Canada thistle can be a minor component in the winter and spring diet of mule deer [12,120]. White-tailed deer forage on Canada thistle in marsh meadows [73]. Thistles (Cirsium spp.) are sometimes eaten by grizzly bear [46]. There are more than 130 species, including pathogens, birds, and over 80 insects, known to feed on Canada thistle [136,161]. Larvae of the painted lady butterfly feed on Canada thistle, but only on an intermittent basis [181,207]. Seeds of Canada thistle are eaten by goldfinches, whose diet consists largely of thistle seeds. Many of the seeds are destroyed this way, but some may pass through the birds unharmed [185].
  • 128. Leininger, Wayne C. 1988. Non-chemical alternatives for managing selected plant species in the western United States. XCM-118. Fort Collins, CO: Colorado State University, Cooperative Extension. In cooperation with: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 47 p. [13038]
  • 146. Mitich, Larry W. 1988. Thistles I: Cirsium and Carduus. Weed Technology. 2: 228-229. [5507]
  • 185. Rogers, Charles F. 1928. Canada thistle and Russian knapweed and their control. Bulletin 348. Fort Collins, CO: Colorado Agricultural College, Colorado Experiment Station. 44 p. [37692]
  • 12. Austin, D. D.; Urness, P. J. 1983. Overwinter forage selection by mule deer on seeded big sagebrush-grass range. Journal of Wildlife Management. 47(4): 1203-1207. [28448]
  • 46. Davis, Dan; Butterfield, Bart. 1991. The Bitterroot Grizzly Bear Evaluation Area: A report to the Bitterroot Technical Review Team. Unpublished report on file with: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT. 56 p. [30041]
  • 73. Fritzell, Erik K. 1989. Mammals in prairie wetlands. In: Vander Valk, Arnold, ed. Northern prairie wetlands. Ames, IA: Iowa State University Press: 268-301. [15219]
  • 120. Kufeld, Roland C.; Wallmo, O. C.; Feddema, Charles. 1973. Foods of the Rocky Mountain mule deer. Res. Pap. RM-111. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 31 p. [1387]
  • 136. Maw, M. G. 1976. An annotated list of insects associated with Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) in Canada. The Canadian Entomologist. 108(3): 235-244. [37305]
  • 181. Rees, Norman E. 1991. Biological control of thistles. In: James, Lynn F.; Evans, John O.; Ralphs, Michael H.; Child, R. Dennis, eds. Noxious range weeds. Westview Special Studies in Agricultural Science and Policy. Boulder, CO: Westview Press: 264-273. [23554]
  • 207. Story, Jim M.; DeSmet-Moens, Hilde; Morrill, Wendell L. 1985. Phytophagous insects associated with Canada thistle, Cirsium arvense (L.) Scop., in southern Montana. Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society. 58(3): 472-478. [37306]
  • 161. Nuzzo, Victoria. 1997. Element stewardship abstract: Cirsium arvense. In: Weeds on the web: The Nature Conservancy wildland invasive species program, [Online]. Available: http://tncweeds.ucdavis.edu/esadocs/cirsarve.html [2001, July 01]. [37486]

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Cultivation

The preference is full sun, moist to mesic conditions, and a fertile soil consisting of clay-loam. Canada Thistle can grow in drier sites with less fertile soil, but the resulting plants will be stunted. The upper leaves often turn yellow or pale green in response to severe summer heat and drought, and growth will stop. Eradication of this plant is difficult because it can regenerate from small pieces of the rhizomes. The most effective control method involves the application of broadleaf herbicides.
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Other uses and values

The fragrant flowers of Canada thistle attract honeybees, the primary pollinator for this species. Thistles (Cirsium spp.) are reported to be both edible [176] and medicinal [83]. Canada thistle has been used by native peoples in the northeastern United States in remedies for worms and poison-ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) and was used to make a mouthwash for children, a treatment for tuberculosis (Duke 1986, cited in [83]), and a tonic for gastrointestinal ailments [147]. The roots and shoots of Canada thistle are said to be tender and tasty when taken early in the spring, and were reportedly used as a food in Russia and by North American natives [185]. The roots of Canada thistle, however, may be emetic when consumed (Lewis and Elvin-Lewis 1977, cited in [152]). "Cirsium" comes from the Greek "cirsos," meaning "swollen vein," for which the thistle was considered a remedy [236].
  • 152. Morishita, Don W. 1999. Canada thistle. In: Sheley, Roger L.; Petroff, Janet K., eds. Biology and management of noxious rangeland weeds. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University Press: 162-174. [35719]
  • 176. Pojar, Jim; MacKinnon, Andy, eds. 1994. Plants of the Pacific Northwest coast: Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Alaska. Redmond, WA: Lone Pine Publishing. 526 p. [25159]
  • 185. Rogers, Charles F. 1928. Canada thistle and Russian knapweed and their control. Bulletin 348. Fort Collins, CO: Colorado Agricultural College, Colorado Experiment Station. 44 p. [37692]
  • 236. Weber, William A. 1987. Colorado flora: western slope. Boulder, CO: Colorado Associated University Press. 530 p. [7706]
  • 83. Haber, Erich. 1997. Fact sheet no. 8--Canada thistle. In: Invasive plants of Canada: Guide to species and methods of control, [Online]. Available: http://infoweb.magi.com/~keyw CIRARV, DISTRIB, MORPHOLOGY, AUTECOLOGY, IPM,. [37487]
  • 147. Moerman, Dan. 2003. Native American ethnobotany: A database of foods, drugs, dyes, and fibers of Native American peoples, derived from plants, [Online]. Dearborn, MI: University of Michigan (Producer). Available: http://www.umd.umich.edu/ [2006, April 14]. [37492]

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Nutritional Value

Crude protein, in-vitro digestible dry matter, micro-, and macromineral
concentrations of Canada thistle are comparable to or greater than those of
alfalfa (Medicago sativa) [133].
  • 133. Marten, G. C.; Sheaffer, C. C.; Wyse, D. L. 1987. Forage nutritive value and palatability of perennial weeds. Agronomy Journal. 79: 980-986. [3449]

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Palatability

Canada thistle is not considered palatable to most livestock. It was rejected by grazing lambs, probably
because of the spines [133].
  • 133. Marten, G. C.; Sheaffer, C. C.; Wyse, D. L. 1987. Forage nutritive value and palatability of perennial weeds. Agronomy Journal. 79: 980-986. [3449]

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Risks

Ecological Threat in the United States

Natural communities that are threatened by Canada thistle include non-forested plant communities such as prairies, barrens, savannas, glades, sand dunes, fields and meadows that have been impacted by disturbance. As it establishes itself in an area, Canada thistle crowds out and replaces native plants, changes the structure and species composition of natural plant communities and reduces plant and animal diversity. This highly invasive thistle prevents the coexistence of other plant species through shading, competition for soil resources and possibly through the release of chemical toxins poisonous to other plants.

Canada thistle is declared a "noxious weed" throughout the U.S. and has long been recognized as a major agricultural pest, costing tens of millions of dollars in direct crop losses annually and additional millions costs for control. Only recently have the harmful impacts of Canada thistle to native species and natural ecosystems received notable attention.

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U.S. National Park Service Weeds Gone Wild website

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Ecological Threat in the United States

Once established, if conditions are suitable, Canada thistle can form dense stands that shade out and displace native plants, changing the plant community structure and species composition and reducing biodiversity. It spreads rapidly and is very difficult to remove.

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Wikipedia

Cirsium arvense

Cirsium arvense is a species of Cirsium, native throughout Europe and northern Asia, and widely introduced elsewhere. The standard English name in its native area is Creeping Thistle.[1][2][3]

Alternative names[edit]

A number of other names have been used in the past, or in other areas including: Canada Thistle,[4] Canadian Thistle, Lettuce From Hell Thistle, California Thistle,[5] Corn Thistle, Cursed Thistle, Field Thistle, Green Thistle, Hard Thistle, Perennial Thistle, Prickly Thistle, Small-flowered Thistle and Way Thistle. The first two names are in wide use in the United States, despite being a misleading designation (it is not of Canadian origin).[6]

Physical characteristics[edit]

Flowering Creeping Thistle

It is a herbaceous perennial plant growing 30–100 cm, forming extensive clonal colonies from an underground root system that sends up numerous erect stems each spring, reaching 1–1.2 m tall (occasionally more).

Stems are green smooth and glabrous (having no Trichome or glaucousness), mostly without spiny wings. The stems often lie partly flat by summer but can stay erect if supported by other vegetation. The leaves are very spiny, lobed, up to 15–20 cm long and 2–3 cm broad (smaller on the upper part of the flower stem).

The inflorescence is 10–22 mm diameter, pink-purple, with all the florets of similar form (no division into disc and ray florets). The flowers are usually dioecious, but not invariably so, with some plants bearing hermaphrodite flowers. The seeds are 4–5 mm long, with a feathery pappus which assists in wind dispersal.[3][7][8] The plant also spreads underground using rhizomes.

There are two varieties:[3]

  • Cirsium arvense var. arvense. Most of Europe. Leaves hairless or thinly hairy beneath.
  • Cirsium arvense var. incanum (Fisch.) Ledeb. Southern Europe. Leaves thickly hairy beneath.

As a subclassification of the "Eudicot" monophyletic group, Cirsium is a "true dicotyledon". The number of Pollen grain furrows or pores helps classify the flowering plants, with eudicots having three colpi (tricolpate).[9][10]

C. arvense is a C3 carbon fixation plant.[11] The C3 plants, originated during Mesozoic and Paleozoic eras, and tend to thrive in areas where sunlight intensity is moderate, temperatures are moderate, and ground water is plentiful. C3 plants lose 97% of the water taken up through their roots to transpiration.[12]

It is a Ruderal species.[13]

Ecology[edit]

The seeds are an important food for Goldfinch and Linnet, and to a lesser extent for other finches.[14] Creeping Thistle foliage is used as a food by over 20 species of Lepidoptera, including the Painted Lady butterfly and the Engrailed, a species of moth, and several species of aphids.[15][16][17]

Status as a weed[edit]

The species is widely considered a weed even where it is native, for example being designated an "injurious weed" in the United Kingdom under the Weeds Act 1959.[18] It is also a serious invasive species in many additional regions where it has been introduced, usually accidentally as a contaminant in cereal crop seeds. It is cited as a noxious weed in several countries; for example Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and the United States. Many countries regulate this plant, or its parts (i.e., seed) as a contaminant of other imported products such as grains for consumption or seeds for propagation. In Canada, Cirsium arvense is classified as a primary noxious weed seed in the Weed Seeds Order 2005 which applies to Canada's Seeds Regulations.[19]

Control methods include:

  • cutting at flower stem extension before the flower buds open to prevent seed spread. Repeated cutting at the same growth stage over several years may "wear down" the plant.
  • Applying herbicide: Herbicides dominated by phenoxy compounds (especially MCPA) saw drastic declines in Thistle infestation in Sweden in the 1950s.[11] MCPA and Clopyralid are approved in some regions.

Orellia ruficauda feeds on Canada thistle has been reported to be the most effective biological control agent for that plant.[20] Its larvae parasitize the seed heads of the plant feeding solely upon fertile seed heads.[21]

The rust species Puccinia obtegens has shown some promise for controlling Canada thistle, but it must be used in conjunction with other control measures to be effective.[22]

Aceria anthocoptes feeds on this species and is considered to be a good potential biological control agent.

Uses[edit]

Like other Cirsium species, the roots are edible, though rarely used, not least because of their propensity to induce flatulence in some people. The taproot is considered the most nutritious.[citation needed] The leaves are also edible, though the spines make their preparation for food too tedious to be worthwhile. The stalks, however, are also edible and more easily de-spined.[23]

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Joint Nature Conservation Committee: Cirsium arvense
  2. ^ Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland Database
  3. ^ a b c Flora of Northwest Europe: Cirsium arvense
  4. ^ Nebraska Department of Agriculture Noxious Weed Program
  5. ^ Californian Thistle (Cirsium arvense), Landcare Research, New Zealand
  6. ^ Invasive and Problem Plants of the United States: Cirsium arvense
  7. ^ Blamey, M. & Grey-Wilson, C. (1989). Flora of Britain and Northern Europe. ISBN 0-340-40170-2
  8. ^ Kay, Q. O. N. (1985). Hermaphrodites and subhermaphrodites in a reputedly dioecious plant, Cirsium arvense (L.) Scop. New Phytol. 100: 457-472. Available online (pdf file).
  9. ^ Kenneth R. Sporne (1972). "Some Observations on the Evolution of Pollen Types in Dicotyledons". New Phytologist 71 (1): 181–185. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8137.1972.tb04826.x. 
  10. ^ Walter S. Judd and Richard G. Olmstead (2004). "A survey of tricolpate (eudicot) phylogenetic relationships". American Journal of Botany 91 (10): 1627–1644. doi:10.3732/ajb.91.10.1627. PMID 21652313.  (full text)
  11. ^ a b Weeds and weed management on arable land: an ecological approach Sigurd Håkansson CABI Publishing Series, 2003, ISBN 0-85199-651-5
  12. ^ Raven, J.A.; Edwards, D. (2001). "Roots: evolutionary origins and biogeochemical significance". Journal of Experimental Botany 52 (90001): 381–401. doi:10.1093/jexbot/52.suppl_1.381. PMID 11326045. 
  13. ^ p80
  14. ^ Cramp, S., & Perrins, C. M. (1994). The Birds of the Western Palearctic. Vol. VIII: Crows to Finches. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  15. ^ Finnish Lepidoptera Cirsium arvense
  16. ^ The Ecology of Commanster: Cirsium arvense
  17. ^ Ecological Flora of the British Isles: Phytophagous Insects for Cirsium arvense
  18. ^ DEFRA: Identification of injurious weeds
  19. ^ Weed Seeds Order 2005, Canada Gazette Part I, Vol. 139, No. 9
  20. ^ Moore 1975, Maw 1976
  21. ^ Lalonde
  22. ^ Turner et al. 1980
  23. ^ Plants for a Future: Cirsium arvense
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

The currently accepted scientific name for Canada thistle is Cirsium arvense (L.)
Scop. (Asteraceae) [42,75,81,92,94,103,107,126,134,177,186,208,232,248]. Canada thistle is extremely variable with regard to leaf division and vestiture,
and it has been treated as several species, numerous varieties, or as a single
highly polymorphic species [81]. Several authors recognize different varieties based
primarily on differences in leaf morphology [42,75,81,94,232,238]. Voss [232] says it is doubtful that the variety designations are
meaningful, and Cronquist and others [42] state that contemporary European
botanists do not consider described variants of the species to be taxonomically
significant.
  • 42. Cronquist, Arthur; Holmgren, Arthur H.; Holmgren, Noel H.; Reveal, James L.; Holmgren, Patricia K. 1994. Intermountain flora: Vascular plants of the Intermountain West, U.S.A. Vol. 5: Asterales. New York: The New York Botanical Garden. 496 p. [28653]
  • 75. Gleason, Henry A.; Cronquist, Arthur. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. 2nd ed. New York: New York Botanical Garden. 910 p. [20329]
  • 81. Great Plains Flora Association. 1986. Flora of the Great Plains. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. 1392 p. [1603]
  • 92. Hickman, James C., ed. 1993. The Jepson manual: Higher plants of California. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1400 p. [21992]
  • 103. Hulten, Eric. 1968. Flora of Alaska and neighboring territories. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. 1008 p. [13403]
  • 134. Martin, William C.; Hutchins, Charles R. 1981. A flora of New Mexico. Volume 2. Germany: J. Cramer. 2589 p. [37176]
  • 177. Radford, Albert E.; Ahles, Harry E.; Bell, C. Ritchie. 1968. Manual of the vascular flora of the Carolinas. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press. 1183 p. [7606]
  • 186. Roland, A. E.; Smith, E. C. 1969. The flora of Nova Scotia. Halifax, NS: Nova Scotia Museum. 746 p. [13158]
  • 208. Strausbaugh, P. D.; Core, Earl L. 1977. Flora of West Virginia. 2nd ed. Morgantown, WV: Seneca Books, Inc. 1079 p. [23213]
  • 238. Welsh, Stanley L.; Atwood, N. Duane; Goodrich, Sherel; Higgins, Larry C., eds. 1987. A Utah flora. The Great Basin Naturalist Memoir No. 9. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University. 894 p. [2944]
  • 248. Wofford, B. Eugene. 1989. Guide to the vascular plants of the Blue Ridge. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 384 p. [12908]
  • 94. Hitchcock, C. Leo; Cronquist, Arthur. 1973. Flora of the Pacific Northwest. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press. 730 p. [1168]
  • 232. Voss, Edward G. 1996. Michigan flora. Part III: Dicots (Pyrolaceae--Compositae). Bulletin 61: Cranbrook Institute of Science; University of Michigan Herbarium. Ann Arbor, MI: The Regents of the University of Michigan. 622 p. [30401]
  • 107. Kartesz, John T. 1999. A synonymized checklist and atlas with biological attributes for the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 1st ed. In: Kartesz, John T.; Meacham, Christopher A. Synthesis of the North American flora (Windows Version 1.0), [CD-ROM]. Chapel Hill, NC: North Carolina Botanical Garden (Producer). In cooperation with: The Nature Conservancy; U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service; U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. [36715]
  • 126. Larson, Gary E. 1993. Aquatic and wetland vascular plants of the Northern Great Plains. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-238. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 681 p. Jamestown, ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center (Producer). Available: http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/plants/vascplnt/vascplnt.htm [2006, February 11]. [22534]

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Common Names

Canada thistle

Californian thistle

creeping thistle

field thistle

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