Carlina is a genus of flowering plants in the aster family, Asteraceae.[2][3] It is distributed from Madeira and the Canary Islands across Europe and northern Africa to Siberia and northwestern China.[4][5][6]

The genus name Carlina honors the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (1500–1558).[7] Plants of the genus are known commonly as carline thistles.[8][9]


Carlina species are very similar to true thistles (genus Cirsium) in morphology,[4] and are part of the thistle tribe, Cynareae. Most are biennial herbs, but the genus includes annuals, perennials, shrubs, and dwarf trees, as well. The largest reach about 80 centimeters tall. The stems are upright and branching or unbranched. The whole plant is spiny. The leaves have toothed or lobed blades with spiny edges and sometimes woolly hairs. The flower heads are solitary or borne in inflorescences. The head is hemispherical to bell-shaped and lined with several layers of spiny phyllaries. The outer phyllaries may be very long and leaflike. It contains tubular or funnel-shaped disc florets in shades of yellow or red. The fruit is a hairy cypsela with a plumelike pappus made up of tufts of bristles.[7]

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