25 Marian thistle (Silybum marianum)
© Botanischer Garten, Uni Münster

botanical background


order: Asterales

family: Asteraceae

genus: Silybum

species: Marian thistle (Silybum marianum)

attributes: up to 1,5 meters in height, green broad-leaves with white leaf veines

origin: Mediterranean region and central Europe up to central Asia

habitat: by now on all continents

Note: The marian thistle represents all the thistles mentioned in the Bible. According to Zahory (1983) more than twenty names of thorns are mentioned in the Bible. They can also refer to the blackberry (Rubus creticus), globe thistle (Echinops spinosissimus subsp. spinosissimus) or notobasis (Notobasis syriaca).


in the Bible


For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush.

Luke 6,44


Biblical Hebrew has several words refering to thistles, for example שָׁיִת (šājit).

Since thistles sprout fast, they quickly overgrow cultivated land. They mean additional work for the farmer. In the Old Testament they represent a hostile, chaotic word (Jes 27,4).

Thistles were also used as tools for punishment (Ri 8,7; Ri 8,16) or as symbols for the judgment of God, when they grow on altars or cultic places in the desert (Hos 9,6).


mentions: several

other text passages (selected): 

Genesis 3,17-18

Isaiah 34,13

Matthew 13,7

John 19,2 

Luke 6,44



Hepper, F. Nigel: Pflanzenwelt der Bibel. Eine illustrierte Enzyklopädie von F. Nigel Hepper, Stutgart 1992, 34-35.

Riede, Peter: Distel, in: Das wissenschaftliche Bibellexikon im Internet (April 2018), URL: https://www.bibelwissenschaft.de/wibilex/das-bibellexikon/lexikon/sachwort/anzeigen/details/distel/ch/5899dbf18eb4dc13aa186402e4d17e36//(abgerufen 01.05.2023)

Zahory (1983) 

Modern King James Version.

© Botanischer Garten, Uni Münster
© Botanischer Garten, Uni Münster
© Bibelmuseum Münster
© Botanischer Garten, Uni Münster