Douglas County Conservation District

SERVING LANDOWNERS IN DOUGLAS COUNTY COLORADO FOR OVER 56 YEARS

     PO BOX 688, 7519A E HWY 86, FRANKTOWN, CO 80116   303-218-2622   DCCDistrict@gmail.com

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Musk Thistle
Carduus nutans

A biennial or sometimes a winter annual, which grows up to 6' tall.  Leaves are dark green with light green midrib, deeply lobed, and spiny margined.  Leaves extend onto the stem, giving a winged appearance.  Seedlings, shown above, have wavy margins and are somewhat lobed with marginal yellow spines.

Flower heads are terminal, solitary, 1 1/2 inches to 3 inches in diameter, and usually bent over.  Sometimes called the nodding thistle.  Flowers are a deep rose, violet or purple, occasionally white.  Fruits are 3/16 inch long, shiny, yellowish-brown with a plume of white hair-like fibers.

It spreads rapidly forming extremely dense stands which crowd out desirable forages.  Chemical control is effective.  The musk thistle weevil, when introduced to the area, feeds on the seeds and can limit the spread of this plant.