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Yellow star thistle

Yellow star thistle (Centaurea solstitialis)

Winter annual (germinates in the fall and flowers the following May through September). 1.5-3’ tall.


Regulated areas of yellow star thistle
Yellow star thistle is Prohibited (Red counties)

Other names for this plant include:

  • Common names: golden star thistle, yellow cockspur, yellow centaury, St. Barnaby's thistle
  • Scientific names: Leucantha solstitialis

Ecological threat:

  • Reported in disturbed sides such as roadsides and pastures.

Classification in Wisconsin: Prohibited

Species Assessment Groups (SAG) were assembled to recommend a legal classification for each species considered for NR 40. The recommendation for yellow star thistle was based upon this literature review developed by the department.


First year plant leaves: Simple, deeply lobed, and 2-3” long.

Second year plant leaves: Alternating leaves on stem become shorter and narrower with pointed tips as they move up the stem; base of leave create winged appearance; dull green color; covered with woolly hairs.

Flowers: Yellow flower heads are 1” wide and have spines at the base; one flower at the end of each stem.

Fruits & seeds: One plant can produce 100,000 seeds. They generally do not move far unless seeds cling to animal fur, feathers or humans.

Roots: Taproot.


Known county distribution of yellow star thistle
Counties in WI where yellow star thistle has been reported (as of July 2011). Both vouchered and unvouchered reports included.

Do you have yellow star thistle in your county but it isn't shaded on the map? Send us a report.


Mechanical: Plants can be pulled, mowed, or tilled before bloom. Controlled burns in early flowering stage and repeated for 3 consecutive years.

Chemical: Foliar spray of glyphosate, triclopyr, clopyralid, or picloram.


Sources for content:

  • Czarapata, Elizabeth; Invasive Plants of the Upper Midwest: an illustrated guide to their identification and control. University of Wisconsin Press. 2005. Pg. 134
  • USDA Forest Service, Northeastern Area Forest Health Staff. Weed of the Week: Yellow starthistle [exit DNR]

Links for More Information

Last revised: Monday June 03 2019