Cirsium vulgare (spear thistle, bull thistle, or common thistle)

Thistles are too often considered rubbish plants. I’m afraid I have to disagree.

This species is native to Europe and northwestern Africa and naturalized in the US.

A UK survey rated it in the top 10 for most nectar production. Thistles are in the Family Asteraceae, which include asters, daisies, and sunflowers. Hardly a trashy family.

This individual was photographed at Finzel Swamp, western Maryland.

Specific Feedback Requested

Graphics, color, framing.

Technical Details

Is this a composite: No
Full frame DSLR, 100 mm lens.


Beautiful, Paul! I love thistles! I think they look kind of other-worldly. You captured this beautifully!

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Yes, most people consider then as a weed, but I love the vibrancy of the flowers. They also attract a lot of bumblebees. This image is lovely as your other images, white background, great dof and colors. It is nice to see the buds and the steam too.

Thistles rule - they attract many butterflies and moths. Maybe it’s their usually prickly leaves as well as their ability to grow where other plants can’t which earn them a bad press. Right now I’m growing a species which has soft, non-prickly leaves and can’t wait to see the butterflies on them. I love this image in your impeccable style. Have you published any books of these images yet, Paul?

There are quite a few invasive thistles that can cause a reduction in species diversity in disturbed prairie areas. Bull thistle less so than some of the other exotic species found in North America. Your image is perfect and I like how you handled the stem at the bottom of the frame. The flower color is accurate and having the flower and two buds add an element of future time to the image. Well done…Jim

Graceful and gorgeous! I love the detail and composition. My only very slight nit is a wish for a bit more canvas top and left. (And maybe a bee…)

Thanks @Vanessa_Hill , @Jim_Zablotny @Diane_Miller @ravi @Mike_Friel I very much appreciate all your comments.

@Jim_Zablotny , that an interesting comment about the stem. I was talking with a publisher and they couldn’t understand why the stems in this portfolio fade away. I feel it provides a softer escape from the frame than being chopped off.

@Mike_Friel , I did have some conversations but books seem to be out of style. Another project of mine is documenting a biking/hiking trail here in WPA and they love happy people on bikes crossing bridges and riding through the woods, but flowers - no.

Namaste all of you. It’s a real pleasure to see your images and hear you comments.

As always, excellent detail and presentation. This image is striking in its composition and colors. One of my favorites from those you’ve posted. Must give the lonely thistle another try. Thanks.

I think having the stem fade out to leave a white border is brilliant, and so in keeping with the “botanical illustration” look that makes these images so special.