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Creeping Thistle

Native British Plant

Creeping Thistle
Cirsium arvense

Don’t grasp this thistle, for its cactus-like hairy spines can painfully embed in your skin for days, taking tweezers to get them out. The plant forms dense scrub-like clumps on disturbed ground, as it’s a pioneer species with seeds which fly far on the wind and remain dormant below grassland for years.

Nevertheless, the plant is a boon for biodiversity, with abundant flowers that support pollinators, followed by prodigious seeds which attract birds and rodents from far and wide. You’ll find that the thistle thickets are even used like scrub by smaller birds like wrens, and smaller rodents like voles. Larger species like deer may crush patches within the dense stands to create hidden resting spots out of harm’s way.

Like Ragwort, Creeping Thistle is classed as a ‘pernicious weed‘, which means landowners may be legally obligated to keep it under control. So we haven’t listed sellers here, and we don’t recommend planting it.

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Sometimes sellers may not have the plant you’re looking for in stock. eBay can be a useful last resort, with many nurseries selling direct to consumers. However, plants may not be the species advertised as sellers often make mistakes or misrepresent items. Importing plants from other countries risks spreading pests and diseases.

Grow Plants

Grow Creeping Thistle


What’s The Point?

Wildflower, Structure

What do we mean?

We thought that gardening was complicated enough for newbies, without dealing with terms like ‘perennial’, ‘biennial’ and ‘sedge’. So let’s make it clear and simple – why would you want to buy this plant? E.g. some ‘trees’ like Hazel are also good hedging and provide food.


Technical Plant Type


What do we mean?

We know that some of you like more detail, so here it is… 

Annual plants live for one year, then set seed; biennial plants generally grow flowers in the second year, with leafy growth in year one. Perennial plants put down deeper roots and come back every year, provided they aren’t killed off by drought, frost or acts of God/dog. 

Aquatic plants, climbers, ferns, grasses and trees are almost always perennial.


Flower/Fruit Colour


Flowering/Fruiting Period

July, August, September

What do we mean?

Many plants don’t just have colourful flowers, but beautiful fruits, too! Some have tiny flowers but big, bright bunches of berries. We thought it would be sensible to combine these two categories, so you can see which months of the year show the plant at its best.

Plant Height


Soil Type

Loam, Clay, Chalk, Sand

What do we mean?

Different plants like different conditions for their roots, and some species aren’t suited to certain types of soil. It’s best to check this before planting, to avoid costly mistakes. Loam looks like compost, while clay turns slippery and mouldable when wet; chalk soils are pale in colour, found above chalk or limestone rock, and sand is, well, sandy.

Moist and Free-Draining

Soil Moisture

Moist and free-draining, Free-draining

What do we mean?

Roots are sensitive little organs, and some species of plant don’t like sitting around with wet feet, especially if they rely on processes at the roots, like mycorrhizal interactions. Waterlogged soils tend to have water puddling on the surface when it rains; moist soils are generally wet just below ground level and free-draining soils may be quite dry in the height of summer. And no, we don’t like the term ‘moist’ any more than you, but ‘damp’ doesn’t seem much better.


Sunlight and Shade

Full Sun

What do we mean?

Different plants have evolved for different levels of sunlight exposure. Just like humans, some species love soaking up the rays all day while others would rather live in a cellar. This is worth considering before you stick a sun-loving plant on a north-facing balcony or pop that delicate fern in the middle of the patio.

Species Status


What do we mean?

The species listed on Buy Native are, of course, native! That means they arrived on our island naturally, without human help, since the last Ice Age. This helped them to develop important relationships with our other native species – invertebrates, birds, mammals, fungi, etc, that make them crucial parts of a healthy ecosystem.

Is It Vigorous

⚠️ Yes – this native plant may be hard to eradicate and is likely to spread into neighbouring land.

What do we mean?

Just like introduced species, some of our native plants are very competitive – let them loose in your garden and they may well take liberties – we’re looking at you, Hedge Bindweed! We want to help you make an informed choice that avoids alienating the neighbours, which is why we also describe some, ah… enthusiastic species. Very enthusiastic species may not be available to purchase due to their unfriendly tendencies.


Will rapidly colonise habitats, creating dense thickets of impenetrable spines that are hard to access. Difficult to eradicate once established.


High value for biodiversity, attracting seed-eating birds and butterflies.

Is it Dangerous?

Extremely invasive, spreading rapidly with wind-borne fluffy seeds. A pioneer of disturbed ground. Spines break off and embed in skin like cacti.

What do we mean?

We’re not thinking of man-eating vines here, but just sensible precautions you might want to take. There are a number of plants out there with toxic leaves, thorns or poisonous berries. You might want to avoid your toddler or cat munching down on these. 

Please note, this is guidance based on our research – consult a second source before foraging and do not eat any plant unless you are certain of its identity. 

This plant profile was created by Chris