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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 = 08/01/2017
    View State Conservation Rank Criteria
    Range Extent

    ScoreF - 20,000-200,000 sq km (~8,000-80,000 sq mi)

    Area of Occupancy

    ScoreE - 26-125 4-km2 grid cells

    Number of Populations

    ScoreC - 21 - 80

    Number of Occurrences or Percent Area with Good Viability / Ecological Integrity

    ScoreB - Very few (1-3) occurrences with excellent or good viability or ecological integrity

    Environmental Specificity

    ScoreD - Broad. Generalist or community with all key requirements common


    ScoreD - Low

    CommentNo known threats.

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: 47

(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