The Purple Thistle is a herbaceous biennial with spiny, lobed leaves that form a basal rosette about 1-2 feet wide. A spiny flower stalk rises from the center of the rosette reaching a height of 3-4 feet. Large flower heads form at the end of each stalk. These open to large and very showy purplish-pink flowers that are exceptional nectar sources for a variety of insects. This plant also serves as a host for the Metalmark butterfly.
This plant is considered a native weed that grows in pinelands, pastures, and along roadsides in all sections of Florida and much of the non-mountainous areas of the eastern and southern United States.
All of the photos on this page were taken at the Babcock-Webb WMA in Charlotte County.
The distribution maps for the Purple Thistle are from the Plants Database of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).