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SPECIES:  Cirsium neomexicanum
New Mexico thistle in Mojave National Preserve, CA. Image by Jean Pawek, used with permission.



SPECIES: Cirsium neomexicanum
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION: Tesky, Julie L. 1994. Cirsium neomexicanum. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].
ABBREVIATION: CIRNEO SYNONYMS: C. arcuum A. Nels [14] C. utahense (Muhl. ex. W.Barton) Petrak [17] NRCS PLANT CODE: CINE COMMON NAMES: New Mexico thistle lavender thistle TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name for New Mexico thistle is Cirsium neomexicanum Gray [8,14,19]. It is a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae). The following varieties are recognized [19]: Cirsium neomexicanum var. neomexicanum Cirsium neomexicanum var. utahense (Petrak) Welsh LIFE FORM: Forb FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS: No special status OTHER STATUS: NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Cirsium neomexicanum
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: New Mexico thistle is found in the desert areas of southern California, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and northern Mexico [6,8,14].
Distribution of New Mexico thistle. Map courtesy of USDA, NRCS. 2018. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC [2018, April 17] [17].

   FRES29  Sagebrush
   FRES30  Desert shrub
   FRES35  Pinyon - juniper


    7  Lower Basin and Range
   12  Colorado Plateau
   13  Rocky Mountain Piedmont

   K023  Juniper - pinyon woodland
   K024  Juniper steppe woodland
   K039  Blackbrush
   K040  Saltbush - greasewood
   K041  Creosotebush
   K042  Creosotebush - bursage
   K044  Creosotebush - tarbush

   238  Western juniper
   239  Pinyon - juniper


New Mexico thistle is commonly found in creosotebush (Larrea tridentata)
scrub, blackbrush (Coleogyne ramosissima) scrub, shadscale (Atriplex
confertifolia), sagebrush (Artemisia spp.), salt desert shrub, mountain
brush, Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia) woodlands, and pinyon (Pinus
spp.)-juniper (Juniperus spp.) woodlands [12,16,19].  New Mexico thistle
is not listed as a dominant or codominant in the available literature.


SPECIES: Cirsium neomexicanum
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE: Thistle (Cirsium spp.) seeds are the favorite food of goldfinches and many other birds. The flowers provide nectar and pollen for bees [21]. PALATABILITY: NO-ENTRY NUTRITIONAL VALUE: NO-ENTRY COVER VALUE: NO-ENTRY VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES: NO-ENTRY OTHER USES AND VALUES: The Navajo and Hopi Indians use thistles (Cirsium spp.) for medicinal purposes [8]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS: New Mexico thistle is not a weedy species, unlike many other species of thistle [5]. Many insect species feed on New Mexico thistle. It hosts three endophagous insect species. Only the pyralid moth attacks the flowering heads. The artichoke plume moth attacks the stems and crowns of New Mexico thistle. Phytophagous insects associated with New Mexico thistle have been listed [5].


SPECIES: Cirsium neomexicanum
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS: New Mexico thistle is a native biennial herb [5,12,19]. It is robust, erect or ascending, moderately to much branched, and 5 to 8 feet (1.5-2.5 m) tall [14]. The basal leaves are oblong and form a rosette 2 to 10 inches (5-25 cm) broad [14,19]. The petioles of the lower leaves are narrowly winged and spiny and the upper leaves are sessile [14]. The dead stalks of the previous year persist for some time [19]. The flowering heads are solitary to few, at the end of a stem or branch [6]. The fruit is an achene with a bristly pappus 0.6 to 0.8 inch (1.5-2 cm) long [14]. It has a taproot. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM: Hemicryptophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES: Information is not available regarding the regeneration processes of New Mexico thistle. Because it is a biennial herb it probably only regenerates by seed. The genus Cirsium is widespread and variable so inferences about New Mexico thistle from other Cirsium species may not be valid. SITE CHARACTERISTICS: New Mexico thistle is commonly found in sandy to gravelly washes, and on dry, rocky slopes, mesas, canyon sides, and plains and foothills [5,6,12,14,18]. It occurs at the following elevations: southern California - 3,000 to 6,000 feet (900-1,800 m) [12] Colorado - 4,500 to 6,500 feet (1,400-2,000 m) [6] Arizona - 1,000 to 6,500 feet (300-2,000 m) [8] SUCCESSIONAL STATUS: NO-ENTRY SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: New Mexico thistle usually flowers from April to May [5,12].


SPECIES: Cirsium neomexicanum
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS: Regeneration of New Mexico thistle after fire is not described in the available literature. However, it probably can colonize burned areas via seeds. Fire frequency in the communities where New Mexico thistle occurs is generally low. In creosotebush scrub communities, fires generally occur only in years when exceptionally heavy winter rains have produced abnormally high numbers of annuals. Fires are also rare in blackbrush communities; however, these communities have been known to burn under conditions of high temperature, high wind velocity, and low relative humidity. Shadscale communities rarely burn [7]. Pinyon-juniper communities historically burned every 10 to 30 years. Where livestock grazing has reduced grass cover and accelerated erosion, fire frequency has decreased [20]. FIRE REGIMES: Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes". POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY: NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Cirsium neomexicanum
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT: Information is not available regarding the immediate effects of fire on New Mexico thistle. Most fires probably kill second-year plants of this biennial herb. First-year plants may survive late-season or low-severity fires. PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE: NO-ENTRY FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS: NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Cirsium neomexicanum
REFERENCES: 1. Bernard, Stephen R.; Brown, Kenneth F. 1977. Distribution of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians by BLM physiographic regions and A.W. Kuchler's associations for the eleven western states. Tech. Note 301. Denver, CO: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. 169 p. [434] 2. Dittberner, Phillip L.; Olson, Michael R. 1983. The plant information network (PIN) data base: Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. FWS/OBS-83/86. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 786 p. [806] 3. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. [905] 4. Garrison, George A.; Bjugstad, Ardell J.; Duncan, Don A.; [and others]. 1977. Vegetation and environmental features of forest and range ecosystems. Agric. Handb. 475. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 68 p. [998] 5. Goeden, Richard D.; Ricker, Donald W. 1987. Phytophagous insect faunas of native Cirsium thistles, C. mohavense, C. neomexicanum, & C. nidulum, in the Mojave Desert of southern California. Annals of the Entomological Society of America. 80: 161-175. [22162] 6. Harrington, H. D. 1964. Manual of the plants of Colorado. 2d ed. Chicago: The Swallow Press Inc. 666 p. [6851] 7. Humphrey, Robert R. 1974. Fire in the deserts and desert grassland of North America. In: Kozlowski, T. T.; Ahlgren, C. E., eds. Fire and ecosystems. New York: Academic Press: 365-400. [14064] 8. Kearney, Thomas H.; Peebles, Robert H.; Howell, John Thomas; McClintock, Elizabeth. 1960. Arizona flora. 2d ed. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1085 p. [6563] 9. Klinkhamer, Peter G. L.; DeJong, Tom J. 1993. Cirsium vulgare (Savi) Ten.: (Carduus lanceolatus L., Cirsium lanceolatum (L.) Scop., non Hill). Journal of Ecology. 81: 177-191. [20980] 10. Knipe, O. D.; Pase, C. P.; Carmichael, R. S. 1979. Plants of the Arizona chaparral. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-64. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 54 p. [1365] 11. Kuchler, A. W. 1964. Manual to accompany the map of potential vegetation of the conterminous United States. Special Publication No. 36. New York: American Geographical Society. 77 p. [1384] 12. Munz, Philip A. 1974. A flora of southern California. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1086 p. [4924] 13. Raunkiaer, C. 1934. The life forms of plants and statistical plant geography. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 632 p. [2843] 14. Shreve, F.; Wiggins, I. L. 1964. Vegetation and flora of the Sonoran Desert. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. 2 vols. [21016] 15. Stickney, Peter F. 1989. Seral origin of species originating in northern Rocky Mountain forests. Unpublished draft on file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT; RWU 4403 files. 7 p. [20090] 16. Thorne, Robert F.; Prigge, Barry A.; Henrickson, James. 1981. A flora of the higher ranges and the Kelso Dunes of the eastern Mojave Desert in California. Aliso. 10(1): 71-186. [3767] 17. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. 2018. PLANTS Database, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service (Producer). Available: [34262] 18. Weber, William A. 1987. Colorado flora: western slope. Boulder, CO: Colorado Associated University Press. 530 p. [7706] 19. Welsh, Stanley L.; Atwood, N. Duane; Goodrich, Sherel; Higgins, Larry C., eds. 1987. A Utah flora. Great Basin Naturalist Memoir No. 9. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University. 894 p. [2944] 20. Wright, Henry A.; Bailey, Arthur W. 1982. Fire ecology: United States and southern Canada. New York: John Wiley & Sons. 501 p. [2620] 21. Mitich, Larry W. 1988. Thistles I: Cirsium and Carduus. Weed Technology. 2: 228-229. [5507]

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