Cirsium longistylum is endemic to the Big Belt, Castle, Elkhorn, and Little Belt ranges of west-central Montana. It is highly variable, and several authors have suggested that it has introgressed with one or more other species (R. J. Moore and C. Frankton 1963; J. M. Poole and B. L. Heidel 1993; S. J. Brunsfeld and C. T. Baldwin, unpubl.). It is closely related to C. hookerianum, and the two probably share a common ancestry or a history of hybrid interactions dating back to the Pleistocene. Cirsium longistylum is perhaps also affected by modern or historic introgression involving C. scariosum var. scariosum.