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Cirsium muticum (Swamp Thistle)

Swamp Thistle, Carduus muticus, Cirsium bigelovii, Cirsium muticum var. monticola, Cirsium muticum var. subpinnatifidum

Cirsium muticum, Swamp Thistle, Carduus muticus, Cirsium bigelovii, Butterfly plants, Purple flowers, Pink flowers
Cirsium muticum, Swamp Thistle, Carduus muticus, Cirsium bigelovii, Butterfly plants, Purple flowers, Pink flowers

A high-value nectar plant, Cirsium muticum (Swamp Thistle) is a tall biennial producing a basal rosette of slightly prickly, deeply lobed leaves in the first year and flowers in the second year. Its slender upright stems are clad with alternate, deeply lobed, nearly spineless leaves, 10 in. long (25 cm), becoming gradually smaller as they ascend the stem. From mid-summer to fall, the plant boasts large, deep, rosy-purple, pincushion-like flower heads, 2 in. across (5 cm), packed with numerous disc florets. Blooming for about 6 weeks, they produce copious nectar and are visited by numerous native bees and butterflies. The ruby-throated hummingbird occasionally visits the blossoms for their nectar. This thistle also hosts the larvae of the Swamp Metalmark and Painted Lady butterflies, as well as a variety of moths, beetles, grasshoppers, and weevils.

The flowers give way to small seeds with tufts of white hair that facilitate dispersal by the wind. Songbirds eat the seeds and use the hair tufts of the seeds in the construction of their nests.

Found in swamps, wet woods, and thickets in the eastern half of the U.S. and Canada, Swamp Thistle has a stout taproot and does not spread by rhizomes. It is not invasive or as difficult to control as non-native thistles.

  • Grows up to 2-7 ft. tall (60-210 cm). Swamp Thistle will die after flowering but will readily self-seed in the garden.
  • Thrives in full sun in sandy, wet to moist soils. Tolerates partial sun and other soil types.
  • Lovely in cottage gardens, naturalized areas, and prairies and meadows. Good as cut flowers, too!
  • No serious pest or disease issues. Grazing animals will avoid grazing the immediate area around thistles.
  • Native to much of the eastern half of the U.S. and Canada.

Requirements

Hardiness 2 - 9
Plant Type Perennials
Plant Family Compositae
Genus Cirsium
Common names Thistle
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Summer (Mid, Late)
Fall
Height 2' - 7'
(60cm - 210cm)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average, High
Soil Type Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained, Moisture Retentive
Characteristics Showy
Native Plants United States, New York, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Massachusetts, Delaware, Connecticut, Maine, Southeast, Southwest, Midwest, Northeast, Missouri, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma
Tolerance Deer
Attracts Bees, Birds, Butterflies, Hummingbirds
Garden Uses Bog Gardens, Ponds And Streams
Garden Styles Informal and Cottage, Prairie and Meadow
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Alternative Plants to Consider

Cirsium acaule (Stemless Thistle)
Cirsium horridulum (Bull Thistle)
Cirsium altissimum (Tall Thistle)
Cirsium occidentale (Cobwebby Thistle)
Cirsium discolor (Field Thistle)
Cirsium rivulare ‘Atropurpureum’ (Plume Thistle)

Recommended Companion Plants

Spiraea alba (White Meadowsweet)
Verbena hastata (American Blue Vervain)
Thuja occidentalis (American Arborvitae)
While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.
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Requirements

Hardiness 2 - 9
Plant Type Perennials
Plant Family Compositae
Genus Cirsium
Common names Thistle
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Summer (Mid, Late)
Fall
Height 2' - 7'
(60cm - 210cm)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average, High
Soil Type Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained, Moisture Retentive
Characteristics Showy
Native Plants United States, New York, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Massachusetts, Delaware, Connecticut, Maine, Southeast, Southwest, Midwest, Northeast, Missouri, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma
Tolerance Deer
Attracts Bees, Birds, Butterflies, Hummingbirds
Garden Uses Bog Gardens, Ponds And Streams
Garden Styles Informal and Cottage, Prairie and Meadow
How Many Plants
Do I Need?
Not sure which Cirsium (Thistle) to pick?
Compare Now

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