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A picture of a Our Lady's Milk Thistle

Our Lady's Milk Thistle

Silybum marianum

Also known as

Blessed Mary's Thistle, Milk Thistle, Holy Thistle, Lady's Milk, Lady's Thistle, Leaves Of Mary, St Mary's Thistle, Variegated Thistle, Blessed Milk Thistle, Bull Thistle, Gundagai Thistle, Spotted Thistle, Variegated Artichoke, Cabbage Thistle, Blessed thistle

Silybum marianum 001 by Valérie75 (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Full Sun
Moderate care
Moderate watering
Frost Hardy


RHS hardiness


Minimum temperature

Expected size








2 years to reach maturity


  • spring
  • summer
  • autumn
  • winter

This plant has no fragrance

More images of Our Lady's Milk Thistle

A large purple flower and green and white leaves of a Silybum marianum plant in a garden
A close up of a young Silybum marianum plant with green and white leaves
A photo of Our Lady's Milk Thistle
A photo of Our Lady's Milk Thistle
A photo of Our Lady's Milk Thistle

Our Lady's Milk Thistle Overview

Silybum marianum is highly regarded as a medicinal plant, however research shows contradictory results and in many locations it is considered a weed. It's an annual or biennial plant that produces large, showy red-purple thistle-like flowers with spikey modified leaves around them known as bracts. Flowers measure between 4-12cm in diameter and height and appear from summer through to autumn. They develop hollow stems with age, leaves are oval to lance-shaped, with spined edges. The viciously spiky green leaves are heavily marked with white veins, creating an impressive display. Leaves can be picked when young and used in salads raw or cooked like spinach, however the taste is reported to be fairly bitter. The stems and roots are edible too and a tinture is made from the seeds, note it is toxic to animals. Originating from Southern Europe and Asia, this species is now found worldwide.

Common problems with Our Lady's Milk Thistle

Relitive pest free

How to harvest Our Lady's Milk Thistle

Pick as needed

How to propagate Our Lady's Milk Thistle


Special features of Our Lady's Milk Thistle

Attractive flowers

Attractive leaves

Other uses of Our Lady's Milk Thistle

Walls, rock garden and ground cover.


Liver tonic, many medicial uses.