Cirsium remotifolium occurs from the Coast Ranges and valleys of the Pacific Northwest to the western slopes of the Cascade and Klamath ranges, south in the California North Coast Ranges to the San Francisco Bay region. It is closely related to the C. clavatum complex of the Rocky Mountains region. Both have a similar growth habit and some forms variably express the character of broadly scarious, lacerate-toothed phyllary margins. Gray, in naming Cnicus carlinoides var. americanus, included as syntypes both California and Colorado specimens. F. Petrak (1917) treated both the West Coast plants and those of the Rocky Mountains as Cirsium subsect. Americana, recognizing C. remotifolium with several infraspecific taxa plus two other species, C. callilepis and C. amblylepis from the West Coast, and four additional species from the Rocky Mountains. A. Cronquist (1955) rejected Petrak’s subspecies, treating C. remotifolium in a restricted sense, limited to plants of Washington and Oregon without dilated phyllary tips, and circumscribed C. centaureae broadly to include the Rocky Mountains and West Coast plants with dilated phyllary tips. Because of the frequent presence of dilated phyllary tips in C. remotifolium in the restricted sense, Cronquist acknowledged the likelihood of past introgression with C. centaureae in the broad sense.