Musk Thistle (Carduus nutans)

Musk thistle is a herbaceous biennial. Flowering plants can range from 1-7' tall. Stems are spiny winged. Musk and plumeless thistles will hybridize.

Leaves: First year basal rosette leaves can be 20" long. Stem leaves are alternate and coarsely lobed. Lobe tips have stout spines. Leaves are smooth and hairless on both sides.

Flowers: Flower heads are brush like and are pink to purple. There can be on or a cluster of flower heads at the end of the stem. Flower heads are 1.5-3" across and are usually bent over on a smooth stalk.

Fruits & Seeds: Seeds have a tuft of feathery bristles and are dispersed in the wind.

Roots: Has a taproot system.

Ecological threat

  • Musk thistle will invade prairies, fields, pastures, roadsides, and ditches.