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Plant Form: Erect biennial herb.
Size: Up to 2 m tall.
Stem: With spiny wings to 15 mm wide and sparse glandular and simple hairs.
Leaves: Up to 25 cm long in rosette, alternate and smaller on stem, deeply divided with triangular lobes, armed with yellowish spines, sparsely glandular-hairy.
Flowers: Thistle-like flowerheads 5-7 cm across, with green to purplish bracts and purple florets.
Fruit and Seeds: 5-6 mm long, 4-ribbed, shiny, brown to grey, with off-white parachuting hairs 8-10 mm long.
Habitat: Pastures, roadsides, waste grounds, disturbed areas.
Distinguishing Features: Mixed glandular and simple hairs, whereas the other erect species of Cotton thistle (Onopordum species) have only white-woolly hairs.