Mountain Thistle

Genus Cirsium
Aster Family (Asteraceae/Compositae)

Paintbrush and Mountain Thistle

Mountain Thistle
Cirsium eatonii

There are several species of thistle in our area. I am told that the one usually found growing at Albion Basin and other high altitude areas (shown at the left) is the Mountain Thistle. These thistles have light purple flower heads, and appear to be somewhat smaller and more delicate than the species I have seen lower down the canyon and in the valley. Otherwise, they are very similar.

Elk Thistle
(Cirsium foliosum)

Another native thistle that can often be found in mountain meadows is the Leafy Thistle or Elk Thistle. The flower heads grow in a cluster near the top of the plant, surrounded by leaves that extend above them.

The stem of this plant can be eaten like celery when the leaves and spines are peeled away. Native Americans used it as food, as did members of the Lewis and Clark expedition and other early explorers.

But it can become a very troublesome weed if it invades a field or pasture.

Leafy Thistle


by Sandra Bray