The meadow thistle is uncommon in the UK, occurring only in south Wales and southern England.
The New Forest is a stronghold for the species.
Meadow thistles grow in wet meadows and fen areas that are open and sunny. They disappear if sites become too dry or are cultivated, or if scrub and trees grow up and over-shade the shorter plants. It is important that sites are kept wet and either cut for hay or, even better, grazed to prevent the encroachment of scrub.
The thistles are in flower in June and July. They grow in many of the wet, grassy parts of the New Forest, but a good place to look is from the boardwalk at Pig Bush, between Beaulieu village and Beaulieu Road Station.