Musk Thistle

Carduus nutans

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  3. Musk Thistle


The Musk Thistle is a common species of chalky soils and can be found on rough grassland, roadside verges, waste ground and scrub. Its large, nodding flower heads are distinctive and appear from June to August. As with the other thistles, it is attractive to a wide range of insects and is the foodplant of the caterpillars of the Painted Lady Butterfly. Birds, such as Greenfinches and Linnets, also gorge on the seeds it produces.

How to identify

The Musk Thistle has a large, nodding flower head on each stem that comprises bright pink florets (tiny flowers) fringed by spiny bracts (leaf-like structures). Its leaves are divided and the lobes are spiny, and its stems are winged and cottony.

Where to find it

Grows across the UK, but mainly found in England and Wales.


When to find it

  • June
  • July
  • August

How can people help

Although they sometimes don't look especially wildlife-friendly, our roadside verges and waste grounds can provide valuable habitats for all kinds of plants and animals. The Wildlife Trusts get involved in different projects to help make these places as beneficial for wildlife as possible. We have a vision of a 'Living Landscape': a network of habitats and wildlife corridors across town and country, which are good for both wildlife and people. You can support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.

Species information

Common name
Musk Thistle
Latin name
Carduus nutans
Height: up to 1m
Conservation status