Cirsium wrightii

Wright's Thistle

FWS Focus

Overview

Characteristics
Overview

Cirsium wrightii (Wright’s marsh thistle; Grey) was described by Asa Gray in the Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge Vol. V (Gray 1853), and by Coulter (1891). Cirsium wrightii is a member of the Asteraceae (sunflower) family, produces a 3- to 8-foot (ft.) (0.9- to 2.4-meter (m)) single stalk covered with succulent leaves. Depending on environmental conditions, it can exhibit life history characteristics of a biennial plant (a plant completing development in 2 years, and producing flowers in its second year) or a weak monocarpic perennial (a plant that lives two or more years, then flowers, sets seed, and dies). The species occurs in wet, alkaline soils in spring seeps and marshy edges of streams and ponds between 3,450 and 7,850 ft. (1,150 and 2,390 m) in elevation. 

Historically found in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico, C. wrightii has been a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act), since 2010 (75 FR 67925).  The State of New Mexico lists C. wrightii as endangered under the New Mexico Endangered Plant Species Act (9-10-10 NMSA). Cirsium wrightii occurs in some of the same New Mexican cienegas occupied by the federally threatened Helianthus paradoxus (Pecos sunflower).

Coulter, J. M.  1891.  Botany of western Texas.  Contributions from the U.S. National Herbarium Volume II, Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 588 pp.

Gray, A.  1853. Plantae wrightii; Texano-neo-mexicanae.  Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge, Washington, D.C. Volume V, Article 6.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2010. 12-Month Finding on a Petition to List Cirsium wrightii ( Wright’s Marsh Thistle) as Endangered or Threatened. Federal Register, Vol. 75. No. 213:67925-67944.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2017. Species  Status Assessment Report for Cirsium wrightii (Wright’s Marsh Thistle). Albuquerque, NM. Ver. 1.0.

Scientific Name

Cirsium wrightii
Common Name
Wright's thistle
Wright's marsh thistle
FWS Category
Flowering Plants
Kingdom

Location in Taxonomic Tree

Genus

Identification Numbers

TSN:

Characteristics

Characteristic category

Habitat

Characteristics
Habitat

Cirsium wrightii is a wetland thistle that occurs in wet meadows associated with alkaline springs and seeps (cienegas). Cirsium wrightii was historically known to occur in Arizona and New Mexico in the United States, and Chihuahua and Sonora in Mexico (Sivinski 2012). 

Sivinski, R. C. 2012.  Cirsium wrightii Wrights Marsh Thistle: A 2012 Population Assessment.  NM Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department- Forestry Division report.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2017. Species  Status Assessment Report for Cirsium wrightii (Wright’s Marsh Thistle). Albuquerque, NM. Ver. 1.0.

Forest

A dense growth of trees and underbrush covering a large tract.

Grassland

Land on which the natural dominant plant forms are grasses and forbs.

Mountain

A landmass that projects conspicuously above its surroundings and is higher than a hill.

River or Stream

A natural body of running water.

Urban

Of or relating to cities and the people who live in them.

Rural

Environments influenced by humans in a less substantial way than cities. This can include agriculture, silvaculture, aquaculture, etc.

Wetland

Areas such as marshes or swamps that are covered often intermittently with shallow water or have soil saturated with moisture.

Springs or Seeps

Areas where ground water meets the surface.

Characteristic category

Physical Characteristics

Characteristics
Size & Shape

Cirsium wrightii is distinctive among southwestern thistles.  It is characterized by its tall (3- to 8-foot (ft.) (0.9- to 2.4-meter (m)), erect growth form which has a single central stalk that is densely covered with succulent leaves which are strongly decurrent  (with bases of leaves extending down the stem as two wings). The plant is prickly with short black spines and has short taproots with many slender fibrous lateral roots (Sivinski 1996a, Arizona Game and Fish Department 2001). Numerous slender flowering branches emerge at broad angles from the stalk, starting about one-third up the length of the plant.  The flowering branches at the top of the plant are the longest. Each branch is terminated by one or a few small flowering heads, which have numerous slender phyllaries (small bracts forming the flower head of a composite plant) (Sivinski 1996a). Flowering occurs August to October (Sivinski 1996a). Flowers are white to pale pink in areas of the Sacramento Mountains of New Mexico, but are vivid pink in the Pecos Valley (Sivinski 1996b).  

Arizona Department of Game and Fish (ADGF). 2001. Cirsium wrightii. Unpublished Abstract compiled and edited by the Heritage Data Management System, Arizona Game and Fish Department, Phoenix, Arizona, 3 pp.

Sivinski, R.C. 1996a. Wright’s marsh thistle (Cirsium wrightii). 1995 Progress Report, (Section 6, Segment 10).  New Mexico Environment Department, Santa Fe, New Mexico, November 25, 1996. 10 pp.

Sivinski, R.C. 1996b.  Wright’s marsh thistle (Cirsium wrightii). 1995 Section 6 Progress Report, submitted to USDI-Fish & Wildlife Service, Region 2, and Albuquerque, NM.

Sivinski, R.C. and P. Tonne. 2011. Survey and assessment of aridland spring ciénegas in the southwest region. Section 6, Segment 25, Progress Report for NM Forestry Division, Santa Fe and USDI-Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 2, Albuquerque, NM. Available at http://aces.nmsu.edu/academics/rangescienceherbarium/documents/SW_Ciene… .pdf

Characteristic category

Lifecycle

Characteristics
Lifecycle

Depending on environmental conditions, Cirsium wrightii can display life history traits of a biennial (a plant completing development in 2 years, flowering in its second year) or a weak monocarpic perennial (a plant that flowers, sets seed, and then dies). Cross pollination is achieved by insect pollinators, primarily bees. Like other species in the genus Cirsium, C. wrightii produces numerous seeds per flowering plant.  After germination, seedlings develop into an intermediate rosette form for most of a year or longer before bolting (producing a stem) and growing into the mature, flowering plant. It does not reproduce vegetatively (asexually from parent plant).

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2017. Species  Status Assessment Report for Cirsium wrightii (Wright’s Marsh Thistle). Albuquerque, NM. Ver. 1.0.

Lifespan

Depending on environmental conditions, Cirsium wrightii can display life history traits of a biennial (a plant completing development in 2 years, flowering in its second year) or a weak monocarpic perennial (a plant that flowers, sets seed, and then dies).  Cross pollination is achieved by insect pollinators, primarily bees.  Like other species in the genus Cirsium, C. wrightii produces numerous seeds per flowering plant.  After germination, seedlings develop into an intermediate rosette form for most of a year or longer before bolting (producing a stem) and growing into the mature, flowering plant.  It does not reproduce vegetatively (asexually from parent plant).

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2017. Species  Status Assessment Report for Cirsium wrightii (Wright’s Marsh Thistle). Albuquerque, NM. Ver. 1.0.

Characteristic category

Similar Species

Characteristics
Similar Species

Cirsium wrightii keys close to two nonnative plants, C. arvense and C. palustre (Baker 2011).  In the field, C. wrightii may be easily distinguished from the other two species by its tall stature; large, somewhat succulent, nearly glabrous (smooth surface) basal leaves; small heads; and green phyllaries with glutinous (sticky) ridges and very small terminal spines (at the ends of phyllaries; i.e., composite flower heads) (Baker 2011).

Baker, M. 2011. Current knowledge of Cirsium wrightii and an assessment of its geographic distribution in Arizona. Available: USDI-Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 2.

Geography

Characteristics
Range

Cirsium wrightii is a wetland thistle that occurs in wet meadows associated with alkaline springs and seeps (cienegas). Cirsium wrightii was historically known to occur in Arizona and New Mexico in the United States, and Chihuahua and Sonora in Mexico (Sivinski 2012). The single location in Arizona was a historical 1851 collection from San Bernardino Cienega, which straddles the international border with Mexico, and no longer has suitable wetland habitat on the Arizona side of the line (Baker 2011).  Reports of Cirsium wrightii from Texas were common (Keil 2006, Sivinski 1996), but in subsequent examinations of Texas specimens purporting to be C. wrightii, the majority of specimens were found to be C. texanum or other Cirsium species (75 FR 67928). David Keil mentions seeing a specimen of C. wrightii from Texas, but did not recall in which herbarium the specimen is located (Keil 2011 in Sivinski 2012). In 2018, an herbarium specimen collected from Presidio County, TX in 2003, was re-examined  and determined to be C. wrightii (Newsom 2018).  Similarly, another herbarium specimen collected from Pecos County, TX, in 1849 was re-examined and determined to be C. wrightii.

In 2018, C. wrightii was rediscovered in Mexico in one of five surveyed locations (Sánchez Escalante et.al. 2019). Other possible Mexican locations of C. wrightii have not been specifically studied or surveyed, however, some of its United States populations are known to be extirpated or declining (Sivinski 2012). The only confirmed extant populations in the United States are in the New Mexican counties of Chaves, Eddy, Guadalupe, Otero and Socorro.

Baker, M. 2011. Current knowledge of Cirsium wrightii and an assessment of its geographic distribution in Arizona. Available: USDI-Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 2.

Keil, D.J. 2006. Cirsium. In: Flora of North America, Vol. 19, pg. 95-164.  Oxford University Press, New York.

Sánchez Escalante, J.J., J.P. Carillo León, J.O. Cruz-Zagasta. 2019. Final Report: Survey for Cirsium wrightii and other rare plants (Graptopetalum bartramii, Pediomelum pentaphyllum, Pectis imberbis, Leucosyris blepharophylla, and Wryngium sparganophyllum) in northeastern Sonora and northern Chihuahua, Mexico. Universidad de Sonora, Sonora, Mexico. September 13, 2019.

Sivinski, R. C. 1996.  Wright’s marsh thistle (Cirsium wrightii).1995 Section 6 Progress Report, submitted to USDI-Fish & Wildlife Service, Region 2, and Albuquerque, NM.

Sivinski, R. C. 2012. Cirsium wrightii Wrights Marsh Thistle: A 2012 Population Assessment. NM Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department- Forestry Division report.

Launch Interactive Map

Timeline

Explore the information available for this taxon's timeline. You can select an event on the timeline to view more information, or cycle through the content available in the carousel below.

19 Items