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SPECIES: Cirsium vulgare | Bull Thistle
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE : NO-ENTRY IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Sheep eat bull thistle seedlings or small rosettes. Rabbits eat leaves and flowering stems, especially in winter and early spring [18]. Gophers and other small burrowing animals eat the roots, especially taproots of rosettes [23]. Although bull thistle made up 1 percent of the total seed plant canopy coverage in bighorn sheep wintering areas just outside Yellowstone National Park, the bighorn sheep did not use it. Juncos increased on a logged and burned site in western Oregon as bull thistle presence increased [14]. In Europe, goldfinches and linnets feed on bull thistle seeds. Pheasants graze on seedlings [18]. PALATABILITY : Because of its spiny stems and leaves, bull thistle is unpalatable to most livestock. Domestic sheep in Australia, however, graze bull thistle and dig for taproots [18]. Bull thistle palatability for livestock in several western states is as follows [5]: MT ND UT WY Cattle poor poor poor poor Sheep poor fair fair poor Horses poor poor poor poor NUTRITIONAL VALUE : The energy value and protein value of bull thistle for livestock is poor. The food value of bull thistle for several species of wildlife in several western states is [5]: UT WY MT Elk fair good ---- Mule deer fair good poor White-tailed deer ---- good ---- Pronghorn fair fair ---- Upland game birds good fair ---- Waterfowl poor poor ---- Small nongame birds good good ---- Small mammals good good ---- COVER VALUE : The cover value of bull thistle for several species of wildlife in some western states is [5]: UT WY Elk poor poor Mule deer poor poor White-tailed deer ---- poor Pronghorn poor poor Upland game birds fair good Waterfowl poor poor Small nongame birds fair good Small mammals good good VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : NO-ENTRY OTHER USES AND VALUES : Bull thistle can cause hayfever [5]. Bull thistle is edible [5]. The taproots of rosettes are peeled, boiled, and eaten, or the boiled roots are dried and ground into flour. The young stems and leaves, with spines removed, are eaten raw or boiled as a green vegetable [7]. MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Bull thistle has been introduced in North America as a seed contaminant, and is widely established [30]. It infests thousands of acres of cultivated land and pastures. Its wind-disseminated seeds and long fleshy taproot make it a hardy weed [22]. Trampling by visitors in Yosemite Valley, California, favors bull thistle. The rosette is relatively resistant to trampling. Meadows with highest use are the most heavily infested [24]. Forestry: Transplanted Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) seedlings on clearcuts in western Oregon grew significantly taller on plots chemically weeded for bull thistle and other weeds than did seedlings on control plots [10]. Rangeland: Sheep grazing other neighboring plants can cause increased bull thistle infestation [18]. When herbivores damage bull thistle stems, there can be great reduction in seed output unless secondary flowering stems form [18]. Control: The presence of tall herbs reduces bull thistle seedling survival. When grass growth was reduced by herbicide spraying, bull thistle increased in frequency [18] Cutting bull thistles may help control it by limiting seed production. Travel distance of wind-dispersed seeds is further with taller plants, and decreasing plant height may limit spread [18]. Seeds may be released from bull thistle stems cut 5 to 10 days after their flowers open. Such plants should be removed from the area after they are cut [23]. Mowing effectively controlled bull thistle in meadows in Yosemite National Park. It is most efficient to cut late in the season, when most of the plants have bolted, but before significant numbers flower. Plants will sprout from the stem and flower if mown too early. Plants cut 8 inches (20 cm) or more above ground have a greater chance of sprouting. A second sweep through, a month after the first, results in the elimination of most flowering bull thistle [23]. Bull thistle roots need not be pulled or grubbed out of the soil to kill the plant. This disturbs the soil and leads to greater infestation. When bull thistle plants were cut at or near the soil surface, almost no sprouting occurred. However, because a plant may remain in the rosette stage for up to 5 years before flowering, a control program of cutting bolted individuals may have to be continued for several years [18,23]. The most promising candidate for biological control of bull thistle in Canada is the fruit fly Urophora stylata, which forms galls in the flower heads. The fly is almost exclusively restricted to bull thistle as a host [18].

Related categories for Species: Cirsium vulgare | Bull Thistle

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Information Courtesy: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory. Fire Effects Information System

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