Cobwebby thistle, western thistle
Most of California, plus northwest Nevada and southwest Oregon
Varied; coastal bluffs, sand dunes, roadsides, woodland
Grey-green, covered with white hairs, 12 inches or more in length; divided into toothed lobes
The common name of cirsium occidentale, cobwebby thistle, refers to the spherical cluster of long, sharply-spined phyllaries below the flowers, as these grow through a ball of a dense, cobweb-like material, which becomes more pronounced as the seeds form. The flower head is composed of hundreds of very narrow disc florets, each about 1.5 inches long, usually purple but sometimes red or whitish. Like the leaves, the thick, strong stems appear grey or even white due to a covering of hairs; the stem may reach a height of 10 feet or more, and branch quite profusely. Several varieties of this species are recognized, reflecting different characteristics of the corollas, involucres and growth habit.