Saffron Thistle

Also known as:
Woolly Distaff Thistle, Downy Safflower

General description

Upright, annual or biennial herb < 1 m tall. Taproot is shallow. Stems arise from rosette and are woody, initially single and then branching. Leaves are glossy, dark green and spiny. Flowers are yellow with purplish veins and bear a bract of prickles below. Achenes bear pappus.

What you need to know

To help protect our environment:

  • You must not breed, distribute, release or sell saffron thistle within the Auckland region.
  • You must not plant saffron thistle within the Auckland region, unless you are transferring an existing plant on your land to another location within the boundaries of the same property.
  • You must destroy any saffron thistle on land that you occupy if it has been planted in breach of the above rules and you are directed to do so by an authorised person.

Pasture, wasteland, open or disturbed sites.

Seeds dispersed by gravity, wind and attachment to livestock.

Competes with desirable pasture species, impedes stock movement and injures grazing animals. Unpalatable to stock. Competes with crops and impedes harvesting equipment. Likely to be a reservoir of crop pathogens.

Site Management

Maintaining good pasture cover can prevent establishment or suppress an infestation. Prevent overgrazing especially in summer. Other herbicides are available for selective use in pasture.

Recommended approaches

Physical control

Method: Dig or grub out at least the first 5cm of taproot

Plant parts requiring disposal: Seeds

Disposal options: Remove to greenwaste or landfill if practical


Biocontrol is currently not available for this species.

Community agrichemical control recommendations

No qualifications
Foliar spray with 100ml glyphosate green per 10L of water

Certified Handler/Experienced agrichemical user
Foliar spray with 100ml glyphosate green per 10L of water and 20ml penetrant

Safety notes

Plant has spines.

CAUTION: When using any herbicide or pesticide please read the label thoroughly to ensure that all instructions and safety requirements are followed.

RPMP status

Whole region (Sustained Control)
Hauraki Gulf Controlled Area Notice pest
Saffron thistle - Main species image