Musk Thistle, Nodding Plumeless Thistle

Carduus nutans

Family: Asteraceae (ass-ter-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Carduus (KARD-yoo-us) (Info)
Species: nutans (NUT-ans) (Info)




Water Requirements:

Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun



Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us


12-18 in. (30-45 cm)

18-24 in. (45-60 cm)

24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

36-48 in. (90-120 cm)

4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)


24-36 in. (60-90 cm)


USDA Zone 3a: to -39.9 C (-40 F)

USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 C (-35 F)

USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)

USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:


Magenta (pink-purple)

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:

Mid Summer

Late Summer/Early Fall

Mid Fall

Other details:

May be a noxious weed or invasive

Soil pH requirements:

Unknown - Tell us

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall

From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse

From seed; stratify if sowing indoors

From seed; sow indoors before last frost

From seed; direct sow after last frost

Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season

Seed Collecting:

N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Walnut Creek, California

Edinburg, Illinois

Detroit, Michigan

Albertville, Minnesota

Saint Michael, Minnesota

Cole Camp, Missouri

Belfield, North Dakota

Rock Hill, South Carolina

Glen Rose, Texas

Hondo, Texas

Mc Kinney, Texas

Cashton, Wisconsin

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Nov 2, 2011, FlyPoison from Rock Hill, SC (Zone 7a) wrote:

I made the mistake of allowing this invasive plant to bloom and let the flowers dry, resulting in a heavy seed dispersion on the edge of my woods. The flowers are a pretty purple color and the plant itself can only be handled with gloves due to it's very spiny skin. It can grow to 6' and doesn't seem to attract anything more than bumblebees here. In wild settings it seems to be less successful.


On Oct 31, 2011, greenneck from Paoli, IN wrote:

hitler loved this plant...


On Jun 21, 2010, eden100 from Edinburg, IL (Zone 6a) wrote:

A former First Lady of Illinois pushed to naturalize the land along state roadways. It was a win-win for tax payers since naturalizing saves costs associated with mowing miles of highway an interstate. Musk Thistle is one of the big beautiful flowers seen here. It provides necter and is photo worthy as a bud and in bloom.

One man's weed is another man's flower.


On Nov 3, 2007, distantkin from Saint Cloud, MN (Zone 4b) wrote:

On Minnesota DNR invasive list
"Ecological Threat:
It generally does not pose a threat to high quality areas. It colonizes primarily in disturbed areas.
Musk thistle is distasteful to grazing animals, giving the thistle a competitive edge.
It grows best in disturbed areas such as pastures, roadsides, and ditch banks, but also in hayfields and disturbed prairies.
A native of western Europe it was introduced to the U.S. in the early 1800s, and is declared an agricultural pest.
Musk thistle and Plumeless thistle are on the MDA Prohibited noxious weed list in Minnesota. "


On Apr 1, 2007, Joan from Belfield, ND (Zone 4a) wrote:

This plant is listed on the North Dakota invasive/troublesome list and this information is being distributed in a guide developed by the ND Weed Control Association and other agencies.

Plant Features:
Biennial or winter annual, up to 7 feet tall
First year rosettes up to 2 feet wide
Rose to violet flowers up to 3 inches wide
Flower heads droop or nod
Bracts on flower heads coarse, pinecone-like
Leaf edges spiny
Leaf tips and leaf lobes spine-tipped
Leaves dark green with a light midrib
Fleshy taproot, hollow near ground surface
Branching stems with spiny wings

Widespread invasive found on disturbed areas, rangeland, pastures, hay land, and road sides. Most ... read more


On Dec 19, 2006, frostweed from Josephine, Arlington, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

Musk Thistle, Nodding Plumeless Thistle Carduus nutans is naturalized in Texas and other States and is considered an invasive plant in Texas.


On Aug 30, 2004, Windy from Belleville , IL (Zone 6b) wrote:

I was driving a back road one day and noticed a government vehicle driving slowly in the opposite direction. There was a man riding shot gun spraying these things that grew on the side of the road.
My property was once a cattle grazing land and I get these growing in my lawn. If given the chance they will creep into a flower bed or fence perimeter. I try to pull them from the root with heavy rubber gloves on. They have a long tap root.
Unfortunately, bees and butterflies love these guys.


On Aug 30, 2004, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

This plant is listed as a noxious weed by the U. S. federal government or a state, and may be known by one or more common names in different places.