Carthamus lanatus is a species of thistle known as woolly distaff thistle, downy safflower or saffron thistle. It is closely related to safflower, which is in the same genus. This annual plant is a native of the Mediterranean Basin, but it is familiar in other places where it was introduced and has become a noxious weed, such as in parts of North America and southern Australia with similar climates. This is a spiny, glandular, woolly plant, which often looks like it is covered in spiderweb due to its fine tangled fibers. It has a pale stem which may reach a meter in height, and rigid, pointed, very spiny leaves. The flower head has many long, sharp phyllaries that can be up to several centimeters long, and often bend backwards (recurved). The disc florets are bright yellow. One plant can produce many stems which mat together due to their spininess and form a small thicket. The fruit is an achene about half a centimeter long with many rigid pappus scales.