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Carduus nutans - L.

Common Name Musk Thistle, Nodding plumeless thistle
Family Asteraceae or Compositae
USDA hardiness 6-9
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Pastures, arable fields and waste places on calcareous soils[17].
Range Most of Europe, including Britain, north to Norway, south and east to N. Africa, Siberia and W. Asia
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (1 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Full sun
Carduus nutans Musk Thistle, Nodding plumeless thistle
Carduus nutans Musk Thistle, Nodding plumeless thistle


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Carduus nutans is a BIENNIAL growing to 0.9 m (3ft).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 7. It is in flower from May to August, and the seeds ripen from July to August. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees, Lepidoptera (Moths & Butterflies).
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map



 Meadow; Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Oil  Stem
Edible Uses: Curdling agent  Oil

Pith of stem - boiled[61]. A pleasant taste[105], it is eaten like asparagus[177]. Said to be delicious[183]. The dried flowers are used as a curdling agent for plant milks etc[61, 183].

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Blood purifier  Febrifuge

The flowers are febrifuge and are used to purify the blood[145, 240]. The seeds contain a fixed oil that is rich in linoleic acid[240]. This has proved of benefit in the prevention of atherosclerosis[240].

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Other Uses

Oil  Paper

The down of the plant is used to make paper[4]. The seed of all species of thistles yields a good oil by expression[4]. This species contains 41 - 44% oil[240].

Special Uses

Attracts Wildlife  Scented Plants

Cultivation details

Succeeds in a sunny position in ordinary garden soil[1, 200]. The flowers, and indeed the whole plant, give off a pleasing musk-like perfume[245]. The plant is very attractive to bees, hoverflies and butterflies[13, 245], it is a food plant for the caterpillars of many lepidoptera species[30].

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Seed - sow spring in situ.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Preferred Common Name: nodding thistle. Other Names: musk thistle. Spanish: cardo almizclero; cardo pendiente; cardo rojo. French: chardon nu; chardon penche. Germany: Nickende Distel. Italy: cardo rosso. Netherlands: knikkende Distel. Sweden: nicktistel.

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Africa, Asia, Australia, Britain, Canada, China, Europe, India, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, New Zealand, North Africa, North America, Russia, Siberia, Tasmania, Turkey, USA.

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

A serious pasture weed in parts of New Zealand, Australia, USA, Canada and Argentina.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed.

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Carduus cernuus Biennial0.9 -  LMHNM10 
Carduus crispusWelted Thistle, Curly plumeless thistleBiennial0.9 6-9  LMHNM111


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Subject : Carduus nutans  
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