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  Nodding thistle  

Department of Natural Resources

Illinois Exotic Species:
nodding thistle Carduus nutans

Nodding thistle, or musk thistle, is a native of Europe and Asia. It was introduced to the United States in the early 1800s. This plant has spiny stems and leaves, and large red-purple flowers. It is known as "nodding thistle" because the flower heads droop from the stem when they are mature. A single plant may grow to six feet in height and produce about 120,000 seeds. Wildlife and livestock do not feed on this species, which gives it an advantage over the native plants that they do feed upon. It grows in open areas, disturbed areas and forests.

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