Unlike the Musk Thistle the Spear Thistle is found in Interglacial beds in Sussex, and Neolithic beds at Edinburgh and in Fife. It is now a plant of the North Temperate Zone, found in Europe, N. Africa, Siberia, and it is introduced in N. America. In Great Britain it is universally common.

The Spear Thistle is found on waste ground in or near villages and towns, about houses or farmyards. But it is also widely dispersed elsewhere, growing in fields and meadows, on upland pastures and hillsides, and in valleys. It is a familiar sight with other thistles by the wayside.