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

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

  • Plant type: Herb

  • Plant family: Asteraceae