Musk Thistle – Carduus nutans

Musk Thistle
Musk Thistle

…In Scotland grows a warlike flower,
Too rough to bloom in lady’s bower;
His crest. when high the soldier bears,
And spurs his courser on the spears.
O there it blossoms – there it blows
The thistle’s grown aboon the rose…


By Allan Cunningham (1784-1842)

 To read the rest of the poem click here

This native to Europe and Asia is now found in the United States everywhere except for Maine, Vermont, Florida, Alaska, and Hawaii. It was first found in 1942 in Tennessee. It has spread so rapidly that 25 states have declared it Noxious! Although it will destroy rangeland, making impossible for cattle to graze, they rarely eat the foliage. They have been observed eating the flowers and seedheads.


Nodding Thistle produces high quality nectar that allows bees to produce superior honey. In the past the dried flowers have been used like rennet to curdle milk. Also, the pith of the stem is edible; care must be exercised when peeling it to avoid the thorns!


In folk medicine the flowers were used to reduce fever, and purify the blood. The leaves and seeds have been used as a bitter to stimulate the liver.


In magic use thistles have always been an herb of protection and vitality. A bowlful, placed in a room or on an alter will strengthen the spirit, renew vitality and afford protection for all present.  


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