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blessed milk-thistle, chardon marie, milk-thistle


Habit Annuals or biennials, taprooted, 15–300 cm, herbage glabrous, puberulent, or slightly tomentose, spiny.

glabrous or slightly tomentose.

erect, usually simple.


basal wing-petioled, blades 15–60+ cm, margins coarsely lobed;

cauline leaves clasping, progressively smaller and less divided, bases spiny, coiled, auriculate.

basal and cauline; petiolate (basal and proximal cauline) or sessile (distal cauline);

blades adaxially variegated, margins dentate and often coarsely pinnately lobed, teeth and lobes spine-tipped, glabrous or puberulent.


discoid, borne singly, terminal and in distal axils. (Peduncles with reduced leaflike bracts.) Involucres ovoid to spheric, 15–60 mm diam.


flat, epaleate, covered with whitish bristles.



corollas pink to purple, tubes slender, distally bent, abruptly expanded into short throats, lobes linear;

stamen filaments connate, anther bases sharply short-tailed, anther appendages oblong;

style branches: fused portions with slightly swollen subterminal nodes, distally cylindric, distinct portions minute.


26–35 mm;

tubes 13–25 mm, throats campanulate, 2–3 mm, lobes 5–9 mm.


many in 4–6 series, unequal, outer and mid with appressed bases and spreading, lanceolate to ovate, spiny-fringed, terminal appendages, at least mid spine-tipped, innermost with erect, flat, entire, spineless apices.


brown and black spotted, 6–8 mm;

pappus scales 15–20 mm.

ovoid, slightly compressed, not ribbed, apices with smooth, entire rims, glabrous, basal attachment scars slightly angled;

pappi falling in rings, outer of many minutely barbed, basally connate, subulate scales, inner of minute smooth bristles.


appendages spreading, ovate, 1–4 cm including long-tapered spine tips.


= 17.


= 34.

Silybum marianum


Phenology Flowering Feb–Jun (west), Jul–Sep (north).
Habitat Roadsides, pastures, waste areas, sometimes cultivated
Elevation 0–800 m (0–2600 ft)
from FNA
AL; AR; AZ; CA; CT; IN; LA; MI; MS; NC; NH; NJ; NM; NV; NY; OH; OR; PA; TN; TX; VA; VT; WA; WV; AB; BC; NB; NS; ON; QC; SK; s Europe (Mediterranean region) [Introduced in North America]
[WildflowerSearch map]
[BONAP county map]
from USDA
Mediterranean region [Introduced in North America]
[BONAP county map]

Silybum marianum is sometimes cultivated as an ornamental, a minor vegetable, or as a medicinal herb. Young shoots can be boiled and eaten like cabbage and young leaves can be added to salads. The seeds can be used as a coffee substitute. Extracts of S. marianum are used as an herbal treatment for liver ailments.

(Discussion copyrighted by Flora of North America; reprinted with permission.)

Species 2 (1 in the flora).

(Discussion copyrighted by Flora of North America; reprinted with permission.)

Source FNA vol. 19, p. 164. FNA vol. 19, p. 164.
Parent taxa Asteraceae > tribe Cardueae > Silybum Asteraceae > tribe Cardueae
Subordinate taxa
Synonyms Carduus marianus
Name authority (Linnaeus) Gaertner: Fruct. Sem. Pl. 2: 378. (1791) Adanson: Fam. Pl. 2: 116, 605. (1763)
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