Cirsium discolor

Pasture Thistle

$3.00 - $600.00

1/8 oz.
1/4 oz.
1/2 oz.
1 oz.
1 lb.

3 Pack
Out of Stock

Our native thistles tend to get grouped into the undesirable Thistle category, but they benefit many different bees, butterflies, and moths, along with hummingbirds. Unfortunatley, still today, some states and counties will call all thistles noxious weeds, native or non.  

Goldfinches are particularly fond of the seed. Pasture Thistle can be identified by examining the underside of the leaves; the downy white underside contrasts with the green topside. Non-native thistles do not have this white underside. Additionally, native thistles are noticeably less prickly than weedy, non-native thistles, like bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare) or Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense).

Pasture Thistle, also called Field Thistle, is a biennial or short-lived perennial. It has a central taproot so it does not spread by rhizomes like Canada Thistle.

Live Plant Shipping Table

Spring Fall Age/Size
Potted 3-Packs N/A September 2.5" wide x 3.5" deep pots

Cirsium discolor - Pasture Thistle

Map Key

Present in state
Present but introduced in county
Present and native in county; not rare
Not present in state
Present and native in county; rare
Species extirpated (historic)
State or county listed as noxious
Present in state; exotic

This map shows the native and introduced (adventive) range of this species. Given appropriate habitat and climate, native plants can be grown outside their range.

4 Questions asked on Cirsium discolor

How deep is the root structure of cirsium discolor? Looking for a native thistle that can live on an intensive green roof (ie soil 6-10" deep), if one exists. Thanks.
This plant, or other native Thistles, would probably not be the best candidate for a green roof. They are biennial so the parent plant will not persist, although they will self-seed well. The root system is a tap root, and I'm not sure how deep it goes by the 2nd year of life, but likely deeper than 10" since it is a fast-grower, and flowering plants can reach 6'!
Does it reproduce prolifically from seed?
Hi Mary, It will reproduce readily from seed if given space and the right conditions. Only on rare occasion have we seen stands of this plant that I would describe as "prolific". Usually, it is a fairly conservative species.
My pasture thistle are beautiful but huge for the space I placed them in. Can they be trimmed back a bit early in the season to keep them from getting 12 feet tall or will this harm them? Thanks!
Hi Valerie - congrats on growing such happy plants! Trimming pasture thistle is a little bit of a gamble, simply because it is a biennial. If you only have a few plants and you want that population to persist on your property, you may want to wait for a few years before trimming any. If you've had these plants for a while and know there's seed in the seedbank, cutting the plants back by 1/3, or even 1/2, will not kill them. The trimming may stunt their ability to bloom and produce seed in their "flowering year," though.
I have Cirsium discolor growing, but I worry about invasive thistles. Do you have a good way to distinguish the two?
Hello Kathryn, We have found that a it can be tricky to identify the native and non native thistles. In most cases the easiest way to determine a native vs nonnative is to look at the bottom of the leaf. If it is a native species it will typically have a wolly and whitish coloration on the underside. One exception is Hill's thistle. I hope this helps!


Growing your own plants from seed is the most economical way to add natives to your home. Before you get started, one of the most important things to know about the seeds of wild plants is that many have built-in dormancy mechanisms that prevent the seed from germinating. In nature, this prevents a population of plants from germinating all at once, before killing frosts, or in times of drought. To propagate native plants, a gardener must break this dormancy before seed will grow.

Each species is different, so be sure to check the GERMINATION CODE listed on the website, in the catalog, or on your seed packet. Then, follow the GERMINATION INSTRUCTIONS prior to planting. Some species don't need any pre-treatment to germinate, but some species have dormancy mechanisms that must be broken before the seed will germinate. Some dormancy can be broken in a few minutes, but some species take months or even years.

Seed dormancy can be broken artificially by prolonged refrigeration of damp seed in the process of cold/moist STRATIFICATION. A less complicated approach is to let nature handle the stratifying through a dormant seeding, sowing seeds on the surface of a weed-free site in late fall or winter. Tucked safely beneath the snow, seeds will be conditioned by weathering to make germination possible in subsequent growing seasons.

To learn more, read our BLOG: How to Germinate Native Seeds

Dormant Bare Root Plants

We dig plants when they are dormant from our outdoor beds and ship them April-May and October. Some species go dormant in the summer and we can ship them July/August. We are among the few still employing this production method, which is labor intensive but plant-friendly. They arrive to you dormant, with little to no top-growth (bare-root), packed in peat moss. They should be planted as soon as possible. Unlike greenhouse-grown plants, bare-root plants can be planted during cold weather or anytime the soil is not frozen. A root photo is included with each species to illustrate the optimal depth and orientation. Planting instructions/care are also included with each order.

Download: Installing Your Bare-Root Plants

Potted Plants

3-packs and trays of 32, 38, or 50 plants leave our Midwest greenhouses based on species readiness (being well-rooted for transit) and order date; Spring shipping is typically early May through June, and Fall shipping is mid-August through September. Potted 3-packs and trays of 38 plugs are started from seed in the winter so are typically 3-4 months old when they ship. Trays of 32/50 plugs are usually overwintered so are 1 year old. Plant tray cells are approximately 2” wide x 5” deep in the trays of 38 and 50, and 2.5" wide x 3.5" deep in the 3-packs and trays of 32; ideal for deep-rooted natives. Full-color tags and planting & care instructions are included with each order.

Download: Planting and Care of Potted Plants

*PLEASE NOTE: we are a mail order nursery and have no retail facilities, but you may pick up your order if prior arrangements are made. Pick up orders are subject to **MN Sales Tax.

US Shipping & Handling Charges

SEED $100.00 and under: $5.00
Retail SEED orders over $100.00 ship free!

Custom seed mixes or discounted seed sales over $100, add 5% of the total seed cost
(for orders over $1,000 a package signature may be required)

BARE ROOT and POTTED PLANTS $50.00 and under: $9.00
over $50.00: 18% of the total plant cost. (For orders over $1,000 a package signature may be required.)

TOOLS and BOOKS have the shipping fee included in the cost of the product (within the contiguous US).

**We are required to collect state sales tax in certain states. Your state's eligibility and % will be calculated at checkout. MN State Sales Tax of 7.375% is applied for orders picked up at our MN location. Shipping & handling charges are also subject to the sales tax.

Shipping Season

SEED, TOOLS and BOOKS are sent year-round. Most orders ship within 1-3 business days.

BARE ROOT PLANTS are shipped during optimal transplanting time: Spring (April-May) and Fall (Oct). Some ephemeral species are also available for summer shipping. Since our plants are field-grown, Nature sets the schedule each year as to when our season will begin and end. We fill all orders, on a first-come, first-serve basis, to the best of our ability depending on weather conditions beyond our control.

POTTED PLANTS (Trays of 32/38/50 plugs and 3-packs) typically begin shipping early May and go into June; shipping time is heavily dependent on all the species in your order being well-rooted. If winter-spring greenhouse growing conditions are favorable and all species are well-rooted at once, then we ship by order date (first come, first serve). We are a Midwest greenhouse, and due to the challenges of getting all the species in the Mix & Match and Pre-Designed Garden Kits transit-ready at the same time, we typically can't ship before early May. Earlier shipment requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

*We are unable to ship PLANTS (bare root or potted) outside the contiguous US or to CALIFORNIA due to regulations.


We ship using USPS, UPS and Spee Dee. UPS and Spee Dee are often used for expediting plant orders; they will not deliver to Post Office Box numbers, so please also include your street address if ordering plants. We send tracking numbers to your email address so please include it when you order.



Germination Code
Life Cycle
Sun Exposure
Full, Partial
Soil Moisture
Medium, Medium-Dry
6 feet
Bloom Time
August, September, October
Bloom Color
Pollinator Favorite: butterflies, moths, bees, wasps, beetles
Bird Favorite: seeds, insects, fruit, nectar, nesting, perch
Deer Resistant
USDA Zones
Plant Spacing
Catalog Code