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Cnicus benedictus (St. Benedict's thistle, blessed thistle, holy thistle or spotted thistle), is a thistle-like plant in the family Asteraceae, native to the Mediterranean region, from Portugal north to southern France and east to Iran. It is known in other parts of the world, including parts of North America, as an introduced species and often a noxious weed. It is the sole species in the monotypic genus Cnicus. Other species once included in the genus have largely been reclassified to Cirsium, Carduus, and Centaurea.
It is an annual plant growing to 60 cm tall, with leathery, hairy leaves up to 30 cm long and 8 cm broad, with small spines on the margins. The flowers are yellow, produced in a dense flowerhead (capitulum) 3–4 cm diameter, surrounded by numerous spiny basal bracts.
The related genus Notobasis is included in Cnicus by some botanists; it differs in slender, much spinier leaves, and purple flowers.
In Shakespeare's comedy Much Ado About Nothing, this thistle, in tincture form, is recommended for a cold.
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