Page authors: Don Knoke, David Giblin
Carduus nutans
musk thistle, nodding thistle

Distribution: Occurring in scattered locations on both sides of the Cascades crest in Washington; British Columbia to California, east to the Atlantic Coast.

Habitat: Roadsides, fields, ditches, wastelots, and other disturbed, open areas.

Flowers: June-October

Origin: Introduced from Eurasia

Growth Duration: Biennial, Perennial

Conservation Status: Not of concern


Biennial herb 3-25 dm. tall, the stem winged from the leaf bases.


Leaves deeply lobed, up to 40 cm. long and 15 cm. wide, mostly glabrous.


Heads mostly solitary and nodding at the ends of the branches, the disk usually 4-8 cm. wide; middle and outer involucre bracts broad, 2-8 mm. wide, with long, flat, spiny tip, the mid-rib very prominent; inner bracts narrower and softer, often purplish; flowers purple; pappus capillary, not plumose.


Achenes glabrous.

Accepted Name:
Carduus nutans L.
Publication: Sp. Pl. 2: 821. 1753.

Synonyms & Misapplications:
(none provided)
Additional Resources:

PNW Herbaria: Specimen records of Carduus nutans in the Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria database.

WA Flora Checklist: Carduus nutans checklist entry.

OregonFlora: Carduus nutans information.

E-Flora BC: Carduus nutans atlas page.

CalPhotos: Carduus nutans photos.

USDA Plants: Carduus nutans information.

40 photographs:
Group by