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Biennials.  Tap-rooted.  Typical height is from 1 to 2 feet.

Flower heads are discoid, borne singly or in small numbers at the tops of stems in flat-topped inflorescences.  Ray florets are lacking.  Disc florets are tubular, bisexual and fertile; corollas yellow (turning purple).  Involucral bracts are in 3 series, the outer two leaflike, with spiny margins; the inner series dry, straw-colored, appearing ray-like (opening in mid-morning, closing over the disc toward evening).

Plants of fields, roadsides, open disturbed areas on thin soils, flowering in August.  Not native.  Our plants are subsp. vulgaris (the only subspecies represented in North America).

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Similar species:  plants in the genera Cirsium and Carduus (thistles)..

 

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