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Short-styled Thistle - Cirsium brevistylum

Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S3S4
(see State Rank Reason below)

Agency Status
MNPS Threat Rank:
C-value: 4

External Links

State Rank Reason (see State Rank above)
Cirsium brevistylum occurs in northwestern Montana where it appears to occupy areas that are sunny, disturbed, and moist. It is a short-lived thistle that colonizes moist habitats disturbed from natural (gravel bars of riparian habitat; soil after a fire) or manmade (road and powerline corridors; logging units) sources, grows and reproduces for several years, and may disappear as more competitive plants establish.
  • Details on Status Ranking and Review
    Short-styled Thistle (Cirsium brevistylum) Conservation Status Review
    Review Date = 06/06/2012
    View State Conservation Rank Criteria
    Population Size

    Score2-3 - Very Small to Small: Population size is imprecisely known but is believed to be <10,000 individuals.

    CommentPopulation levels are poorly documented, though most of the observations consisted of only a few plants.

    Range Extent

    Score1 - Peripheral, Disjunct or Sporadic Distribution in MT: Widespread species that is peripheral, disjunct or sporadically distributed within MT such that it occurs in <5% of the state (<7,500 sq. miles or the combined area of Beaverhead and Ravalli Counties) or is restricted to 4-5 sub-basins.

    Area of Occupancy

    Score1 - Moderate: Generally occurring in 11-25 Subwatersheds (6th Code HUC’s).

    Environmental Specificity

    Score0-1 - Low to Moderate.

    CommentPrefers recently disturbed habitats created by fires, timber harvesting, etc.


    Score0-3 - Population trends are unknown.

    CommentPopulation trends are unknown. Potential threats in conjunction with the species' habitat preferences make prediction of trends very speculative without additional data. It is possible that the species' abundance and/or distribution has increased.


    Score1-3 - Medium to Very High. Threats exist, but severity, scope and/or immediacy are uncertain.

    CommentPotential threats are undocumented, though the introduced Rhinocyllus weevil, noxious weeds and weed control efforts are the potential, major threats.

    Intrinsic Vulnerability

    Score0-1 - Low to Moderate Vulnerability.

    Raw Conservation Status Score

    Score 5 to 13 total points scored out of a possible 19.

General Description
Short-styled Thistle is an herbaceous perennial with thick, succulent, sparingly branched stems that are 4-25 dm high, and which arise from a taproot. The clasping, alternate leaves are pinnately lobed or toothed with spines along the margins. The foliage is thinly to densely covered with tangled white hairs. A few short-stalked flower heads are clustered at the tips of the stems. Each head is 2-4 cm high and has 2-3 series of linear, nearly non-overlapping involucral bracts, which are sparsely to densely covered with long, tangled hairs, the outermost of which have short, erect spines. There are numerous tubular, purplish red disk corollas that are 16-24 mm long. Ray flowers are lacking. The seed has a pappus.

Flowering in June-July.

Diagnostic Characteristics
The purplish flowers and the very narrow, tapered involucral bracts without a greatly thickened midvein separate this species from the other native Cirsium species in our area.

Species Range

Range Comments
BC, MT south to CA and ID (Lesica 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 46

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

Meadows and disturbed forests in the valley and montane zones.

On the Lolo National Forest short-styled thistle is observed to colonize moist, open habitats that are disturbed from either manmade or natural causes. It has been observed to colonize gravel bars in riparian areas, logging units, soil after a fire, roadsides, and utility transmission lines. It seems to grow and reproduce for several years, but eventually succumbs to more competitive plants.

  • Literature Cited AboveLegend:   View Online Publication
    • Douglas, G.W., G.B. Straley, D. Meidinger, and J. Pojar, editors. 1998. The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia. Volume 1. Gynmosperms and Dicotyledons (Aceraceae through Asteraceae). British Columbia Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks and British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Victoria.
    • Hitchcock, C.L. 1955. Compositae. In C.L. Hitchcock, A. Cronquist, M. Ownbey, and J.W. Thompson (eds.). Vascular Plants of the Pacific Northwest. Part 5. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press. 343 pp.
    • Lesica, P., M. T. Lavin, and P. F. Stickney. 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 771 p.
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
    Do you know of a citation we're missing?
    • Goeden, R.D. and D. W. Ricker. 1987. Phytophagous insect faunas of the native thistles Cirsium brevistylum, Cirsium congdonii, Cirsium occidentale, and Cirsium tioganum, in southern California. Annals Entomological Society America 80:152-160.
    • Pemberton, R.W., Turner, C.E. and S.S. Rosenthal. 1985. New host records for tephritid flies (Diptera) from Cirsium and sussurea thistles (Asteraceae) in California. Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington. 85(4):790-794.
    • Turner, C.E., R.W. Pemberton and S.S. Rosenthal. 1987. Host range and new host records for the plume moth Platyptilia carduidactyla (Lepidoptera: Pterophoridae) from California thistles (Asteraceae). Proceedings Entomological Society Washington 89(1):132-136.
    • Turner, C.E., R.W. Pemberton, and S.S. Rosenthal. 1987. Host utilization of native Cirsium thistles (Asteraceae) by the introduced weevil Rhinocyllus conicus (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) in California. Environmental Entomology 16:111-115.
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Citation for data on this website:
Short-styled Thistle — Cirsium brevistylum.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from