Easily mistaken for : Melancholy Thistle (Cirsium heterophyllum) for it too has leaf-free, spine-free cottony stems and usually single flowers but it is usually shorter (only up to 80cm as opposed to 1.2m for Melancholy Thistle), the bracts around the flowerhead are usually purple-tipped and the flowerhead itself is usually smaller - 25-30mm across rather than 30-50mm across for Melancholy Thistle.
Hybridizes with :
- Marsh Thistle (Cirsium palustre) to produce Cirsium × forsteri which unusually for a thistle hybrid is not uncommon (with both parents) in Ireland and Southern Britain and is actually the commonest hybrid thistle in the UK. It has an interrupted wings on the stem which are spiny and like Meadow Thistle the stems are cottony-hairy, with leaves intermediate between the two.
No relation to :
Meadow Saffron (Colchicum autumnale), Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria), Meadow Crane's-bill (eranium pratense), Meadow-Foam (Limnanthes douglasii), Meadow Saxifrage (Saxifraga granulata) or
Meadow Buttercup (Ranunculus acris) [plants with similar names belonging to differing families].
Growing to 80cm high below ground it has creeping runners and above ground stems which are not winged. It loves peaty ground such as fens, wet meadows and the less acidic bogs. They are similar to Melancholy Thistle (Cirsium heterophyllum) in that they too have solitary flowers atop an unbranched stem, but the stem is more white with hairs on Meadow Thistle and the phyllaries spear-shape tapering to a point (whereas on Melancholy Thistle the phyllaries lack cottony hairs stringing between them being instead green with purple tips and have a prominent mid-rib , and the lower phyllaries are wholly green, taper more quickly.