Silybum marianum (L.) Gaertn.

blessed milk-thistle

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New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

Native to southern Europe, blessed milk-thistle has long been cultivated as a medicinal herb, especially for liver and gall bladder ailments. The young leaves and shoots are also edible, and the seeds have been used as a coffee substitute. It may occasionally escape from cultivation in New England.

Habitat

Anthropogenic (man-made or disturbed habitats)

Characteristics

Habitat
terrestrial
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
Leaf type
leaves are simple (i.e., lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets)
Leaf arrangement
  • alternate: there is one leaf per node along the stem
  • basal: the leaves are growing only at the base of the plant
Leaf blade edges
  • the edge of the leaf blade has lobes, or it has both teeth and lobes
  • the edge of the leaf blade has teeth
Flower type in flower heads
the flower head has disk flowers only, and lacks the strap-shaped flowers
Ray flower color
NA
Tuft or plume on fruit
at least a part of the plume is made up of fine bristles
Spines on plant
there are spines on the plant
Leaf blade length
150–600 mm
Flower head width
30–60 mm
Disk flower number
  • 21-50
  • more than 50
Show All Characteristics
  • Flowers
    Bases of bract appendages
    NA
    Bract cycle number
    there are three or more cycles of bracts
    Bract margins
    • NA
    • there are fine hairs along the bract margins
    Bract outer side hair type
    the bracts are hairy, with simple hairs on their outer surface
    Bract outer side hairs
    the bracts are hairy on their outer surfaces
    Bract spines
    there is just one simple spine at the tip of the bract
    Bract tip extension appearance
    the projections from the bract tips have further projections from their edges, like a fringe
    Bract tip extension edge
    there are projections from the bract tips
    Bract tip orientation
    the bracts are pressed against the plant, or spreading out at the tips
    Bracts
    there are at least two distinct forms of bracts in different cycles
    Disk flower color
    • blue to purple
    • pink to red
    Disk flower lobe number
    5
    Disk flower number
    • 21-50
    • more than 50
    Disk flower reproductive parts
    the disk flower has both pollen- and seed-producing parts
    Disk flower shape
    the disk flower is tube-shaped (cylindrical), or gradually widening like a funnel
    Disk width
    30–60 mm
    Flower head number
    each flowering stem has only one to three flower heads on it
    Flower head outer flowers
    at the outer edge of the flower head, the flowers have no enlarged lobe or strap, and are of similar size as those in the center of the disk
    Flower head platform
    the base has no bristles or papery scales
    Flower head platform surface
    NA
    Flower head position
    each of the flower heads is separate on its own peduncle (stalk), not clustered in groups
    Flower head profile
    the disk is flat or nearly flat across the top
    Flower head shape
    NA
    Flower head width
    30–60 mm
    Flower type in flower heads
    the flower head has disk flowers only, and lacks the strap-shaped flowers
    Height of flower head base
    15–60 mm
    Inflorescence branching (Solidago)
    NA
    Inflorescence shape
    the flower heads grow in clusters from the axils of the branches or leaves
    Inflorescence stem
    • hairs are present on the stem of the inflorescence
    • the stem of the inflorescence is not hairy
    Ovary cross-section
    the ovary is compressed (flattened)
    Ovary hair type
    the ovary has no hairs on it
    Ovary hairs
    the ovary has no hairs on it
    Ovary lines or ribs
    there are no lines or ribs visible on the ovary
    Ovary profile
    in profile, the ovary is roughly egg-shaped
    Ray flower color
    NA
    Ray flower reproductive parts
    NA
    Ray flowers
    0
    Ray length
    0 mm
    Reproductive system
    all the flowers on the plant contain both carpels and stamens
    Scale tip
    NA
    Smaller bracts at base of bracts
    there is a cycle of much smaller bracts outside the cycle of larger and longer bracts
    Style branch number
    the style has two branches
    Width of flower head base
    15–60 mm
  • Fruits or seeds
    Ovary length in developed fruit
    6–8 mm
    Ovary width in developed fruit
    2.5–4 mm
    Seed hair tuft bases
    the pappus hairs are attached to one another near the base
    Seed hair tuft details
    • the pappus hairs are hooked or barbed
    • the pappus hairs are smooth and plain
    Seed hair tuft length
    15–20 mm
    Seed hair tuft tips
    • at least some of the pappus hairs are broader at their tips than their bases
    • the pappus hairs are slender
    Seed hairs uniform
    there are two distinct lengths of pappus hairs
    Seed tuft type
    • the pappus is made of flat scales that look split or frayed at the tips
    • the pappus is made of very fine hairs or bristles
    Top of disk flower ovary
    NA
    Tuft or plume on fruit
    at least a part of the plume is made up of fine bristles
  • Glands or sap
    Sap
    the sap is clear and watery
  • Growth form
    Growth form
    the plant has one or more free-standing stems
    Plant lifespan
    • the plant is annual, it lacks evidence of previous years' growth
    • the plant is biennial, it appears as either first year (non-reproductive) plants or second year plants with flowers or fruit
    Spines on plant
    there are spines on the plant
    Underground organs
    there is a thickened taproot on the plant
  • Leaves
    Hairs on underside of leaf blade
    • the underside of the leaf is fuzzy or hairy
    • the underside of the leaf is not hairy, or has very few hairs
    Hairs on upper side of leaf blade
    • the upper side of the leaf is fuzzy or hairy
    • the upper side of the leaf is not hairy, or has very few hairs
    Leaf arrangement
    • alternate: there is one leaf per node along the stem
    • basal: the leaves are growing only at the base of the plant
    Leaf blade base
    • the leaf has a distinct petiole
    • the leaf has no petiole
    • the leaf has no petiole and at the base it clasps the stem, or goes all the way around the stem so the stem appears to pierce the leaf
    Leaf blade base shape
    • NA
    • the base of the leaf blade is cuneate (wedge-shaped, tapers to the base with relatively straight, converging edges), or narrow
    Leaf blade bloom
    the underside of the leaf has no noticeable bloom
    Leaf blade edges
    • the edge of the leaf blade has lobes, or it has both teeth and lobes
    • the edge of the leaf blade has teeth
    Leaf blade hairs
    • NA
    • the leaf blade has simple hairs with no glands, and not tangled or wooly
    Leaf blade length
    150–600 mm
    Leaf blade surface colors
    there are noticeable spots, patches or stripes on the upper surface of the leaf
    Leaf blade veins
    the leaf blade has one main vein running from the base towards the tip
    Leaf blade width
    Up to 200 mm
    Leaf disposition
    • the leaves are nearly similar in size, prominence of teeth, and length of stalks throughout the stem
    • the lower leaves are larger, toothier, and/or on longer stalks than the upper leaves
    Leaf spines
    there are spines along the leaf edges
    Leaf stalk
    • the leaves have leaf stalks
    • the leaves have no leaf stalks, but attach directly to the stem
    Leaf type
    leaves are simple (i.e., lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets)
    Leaflet number
    0
    Specific leaf type
    the leaf has a row of two or more lobes on each side of the central axis
  • Place
    Habitat
    terrestrial
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    Specific habitat
    man-made or disturbed habitats
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Stem internode hair direction
    the hairs point mostly upwards to outwards
    Stem internode hair type
    • at least some of the hairs on the stem are tangled, matted or woolly
    • the stem has no hairs between the nodes
    Stem internode hairs
    • the stem has hairs between the nodes
    • the stem has no hairs between the nodes

Wetland Status

Not classified

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present
Maine
absent
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
present
Rhode Island
absent
Vermont
absent

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

Native to North America?

Yes

Synonyms

  • Carduus marianus L.
  • Mariana mariana (L.) Hill

Family

Asteraceae

Genus

Silybum

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

1.  Silybum marianum (L.) Gaertn. E

blessed milk-thistle. Carduus marianus L.; Mariana mariana (L.) Hill • CT, MA, NH. Roadsides, waste areas, gardens.