The hairy, prickly leaves overwinter to develop stems and branches of up to 2 feet in spring. Musk Thistle. As a biennial, bull thistle has a two‐year life cycle. Musk thistle (Carduus nutans) is a 3- to 8-foot biennial thistle. Bolts, flowers, and dies in the second year. Bull thistle is a weed that can grow in a wide range of environments but prefers disturbed areas. About Bull Thistle: The Bull Thistle is a biennial weed that reproduces by the wind blowing their seeds. Leaf margins are toothed with sharp spines. https://www.canr.msu.edu/resources/bull-thistle-cirsium-vulgare Life cycle: Biennial. Bull thistle has a biennial (two-year) life cycle. The flowering stems elongate and flower in the second year. Plants grow vegetatively their first year as rosettes of green, sparsely hairy leaves. Other Names: Life Cycle: Biennial Description: The bull thistle is primarily a pasture weed having spiny-winged stems and leaves. Bull Thistle leaves grow alternate from each other and form a rosette. top. Bull Thistle spreads by seeds. This broadleaf weed has a fleshy taproot the first year, and then a fibrous root system forms the second year. Stems. Plants grow vegetatively their first year as rosettes of green, prickly, sparsely hairy leaves. It forms occasional side stems, but remains erect in stature, reaching 3-6' in height. Basal rosette forms the first year. Flowering stems reach 2-5 ft in height. The middle and upper stems of large plants with narrow, very spiny leaf-like wings running lengthwise. The tip of each of the lobes of the bull thistle has a long, yellow spine. Weedy characteristics: Bull thistle is highly competitive and aggressive, and forms dense colonies that choke out native vegetation important to wildlife and pollinators. Flowers are dark pink to purple with spined bracts. It tends to grow best in soils with intermediate moisture although it will grow in dry and wet soils. Propagation. Life Cycle. Stems are erect, 30-150 cm high but rarely much taller, usually widely branched and short-hairy. top. Bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare):Common in Clackamas County, moderately invasive, see our weed profile Biennial; Stems are leafy, stout, branched, and somewhat woolly; Flower heads are large, rose to purple with many sharp spine-tipped bracts The plants die after flowering or after the first frost of that second year. The seeds of this weed are short-lived on the soils surface but can lay dormant in the soil for many years. It has a deep taproot, which makes manual pulling a challenge. Reproducing only by seed. Bull Thistle has a two year life span. The plants die after flowering or after the first frost. It is often confused with musk thistle, which usually lacks the leaf hairs. Biennial. The flowering stems elongate and flower in the second year. Reproduction: By seed . The leaves have rough hairs on the upper surface and soft hairs on the lower. 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