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Extension > Garden > Diagnose a problem > Is this plant a weed? > Broadleaf Weeds > Upright > Musk Thistle

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Musk Thistle (Nodding Thistle)

Carduus nutans L.

  • Image: broadleaf Plantain
  • Image: broadleaf Plantain
  • Image: broadleaf Plantain

Found in:

  • Prairie and landscape plantings
  • Mostly found in the southern half of Minnesota
  • Lawns (occasionally)


  • Biennial plant that produces a basal rosette the first year
  • Second year plant produces a 3-6’ tall flowering stem with spiny wings
  • Leaves are coarsely toothed, very spiny, and nearly hairless; leaf edges (margins) are white
  • Purple to lavender flower heads are 1-2” in diameter
  • Stem section just below flower head (peduncle) curves or droops toward the ground
  • Flowers bloom June through Aug
  • Large taproot


Plants that look similar:

More information and control options for Musk Thistle

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