Musk Thistle

Carduus nutans

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State Noxious Weed. Also called nodding thistle. Height to 10 ft.; rosette first year. Nodding terminal compound pink-purple flowers May to August. Lobed, serrate leaves; serration shallower than plumeless thistle. Spines at the end of each lobe, the tip spine is white. Yellow to brown achene fruits with one edge curved.


Will invade a wide range of habitats, primarily rangelands and open woodlands.

Location in Nebraska

Widespread. Found in most counties in Nebraska.

Pathway of Introduction and Spread

Originally from Eurasia and North Africa. Wind, water, and wildlife spread seeds.


Prolific seed production. Forms dense colonies which reduces yield in forage crops. Competes with native vegetation.

Photo Credits: 

Karie Decker, Nebraska Invasive Species Project
“Weeds of the Great Plains” – Nebraska Department of Agriculture