Scientific Name: Carduus nutans

Common Name: musk thistle

Other Common Names: nodding plumeless thistle, chardon penche, nodding thistle, plumeless thistle, carduus thistle

Synonyms: Carduus macrocephalus, Carduus macrolepis, Carduus nutans

Habit: This erect biennial can be found flowering from mid spring into early summer.

Leaves: The leaves initially form a basal rosette, however in the second year the flowering stem emerges, and the leaves on the stem will grow in an alternate fashion. The individual leaves are deeply lobed with 1 to 5 spines at the tip. All leaves are dark green with white veins, and progressively get smaller as you move up the plant.

Identifying Characteristics: This plant produces a musky scent, giving it its name.

Flower Seed Head: The solitary flowers grow at the ends of branches. Each pink or violet flower has purple tinged spiny bracts below it.

Seed Fruit: The seeds develop in a brownish oblong achene. Each achene has a white pappus that resembles small hairs.

Where Found: This plant can be found along roadsides and other disturbed areas

  • Life cycle: biennial

  • Milky sap: Not Present

  • Plant type: Herb

  • Thorns: Present

  • Plant family: Asteraceae

  • Leaf arrangement: alternate

  • Leaf shape: lance; oval; spatulate

  • Ochrea: Not Present

  • Leaf margin: serrated; lobed

  • Stem hairs: no hairs

  • Flower color: yellow; purple; pink

  • Growth habit: upright and nonwoody; prostrate and nonwoody

  • Stem: round or oval

  • Leaf structure: simple

  • Leaf hairs: has hairs

  • Flower diameter: larger; half dollar

  • Flower symmetry: radial symetery

  • Root structure: taproot

  • Leaf stalk: none