Musk Thistle - Carduus nutans

    Alternative names
    Nodding Thistle

    To 1.5 metres tall, stem winged below. White cottony leaves deeply pinnately lobed, the lobes spine toothed, woolly on the raised veins beneath. Flower heads bright reddish purple, large 30 to 50 mm, half nodding, borne on non spiny stalks. Outer flower bracts strongly recurved.

    Identification difficulty
    ID guidance

    As with all Carduus, the pappus-hairs (the silky white hairs attached to the seed - the thistledown) are not feathery or branched, but simple.  The stems have spiny wings, but these are not continuous all the way up to the flowerhead.


    Rough grass land, pasture, arable land and waste ground.

    When to see it

    May to September.

    Life History


    UK Status

    Local but widespread in Britain.

    VC55 Status

    Localised in Leicestershire and Rutland but can be fairly frequent when encountered. In the 1979 Flora survey of Leicestershire it was found in 70 of the 617 tetrads.

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    Leicestershire & Rutland Map

    MAP KEY:

    Yellow squares = NBN records (all known data)
    Coloured circles = NatureSpot records: 2020+ | 2015-2019 | pre-2015

    UK Map