Premise of the study: Tribe Cardueae (thistles) forms one of the largest tribes in the family Compositae (2400 species), with representatives in almost every continent. The greatest species richness of Cardueae occurs in the Mediterranean region where it forms an important element of its flora. New fossil evidence and a nearly resolved phylogeny of Cardueae are used here to reconstruct the spatiotemporal evolution of this group. Methods: We performed maximum parsimony and Bayesian phylogenetic inference based on nuclear ribosomal DNA and chloroplast DNA markers. Divergence times and ancestral area reconstructions for main lineages were estimated using penalized likelihood and dispersal-vicariance analyses, respectively, and integrated over the posterior distribution of the phylogeny from the Bayesian Markov chain Monte Carlo analysis to accommodate uncertainty in phylogenetic relationships. Key results: The phylogeny shows that subtribe Cardopatiinae is sister to the remaining subtribes, and subtribes Carlininae and Echinopsinae appear as consecutive sister-clades to the Carduinae/Centaureinae. Tribe Cardueae is inferred to have originated around the Mid Eocene in West Asia, which is also the ancestral area of most subtribes within Cardueae. Diversifi cation within each subtribe began during the Oligocene-Miocene period. Conclusions: Most diversifi cation events within Cardueae are related to the continuous cycles of area connection and division between the Anatolian microplate and the western Mediterranean Basin during the Oligocene-Miocene and with the uplift of the Himalayan range from the Miocene onward. From these two regions, thistles dispersed and colonized the rest of the continents (e.g., the New World, Africa, and Australia), most likely during the colder Pliocene-Pleistocene period. © 2013 Botanical Society of America.