This is a herbaceous perennial plant which forms extensive clonal colonies from an underground root system which sprout numerous erect stems each spring. It is an aggressive plant, and can cover large areas forming large dense colonies. The stems are hairy, but unlike many other thistles, they have no spines or wings. It has narrow-toothed, spiny leaves. The abundant flowers are pink, reddish-pink, or lilac. The flowers produce prodigious quantities of feathery yellow-brown seeds.
It flowers July to September, and it is ubiquitous throughout the British Isles, from wasteland, roadside verges, grasslands and gardens. Common and widespread throughout.