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Meadow thistle

Scientific name: Cirsium dissectum
On first glance, the Meadow thistle looks a bit like a knapweed - it's not as prickly as other thistles and only carries one pinky-purple flower head. It can be found in damp meadows and grasslands.

Species information


Height: up to 80cm

Conservation status


When to see

June to August


Meadow thistle is a small, slender thistle that doesn't have large spines on its leaves - they are more 'sharply toothed' than prickly. A perennial herb, it has a hairy stem and displays a single, pink flower head from June to August. It is usually found in damp meadows and grassland.

How to identify

A short thistle, Meadow thistle displays a single, pinky-purple flower head. Its leaves are elliptical and much less prickly than most common thistles, clinging close to the hairy stem or at the base of the plant.


Found in Southern England, South Wales and Northern Ireland.

Did you know?

Thistles are excellent plants for supporting wildlife, providing nectar for a wide range of insects and seeds for wintering birds, such as Goldfinches.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts look after many meadow habitats using traditional methods, such as hay-cutting, reseeding and grazing, for the benefit of local wildlife. We are also working closely with farmers and landowners to promote wildlife-friendly practices in these areas. You can help too: volunteer for your local Wildlife Trust and you could be involved in everything from stockwatching to surveying meadow flowers.