Nodding Thistle

Also known as:
Musk Thistle

General description

Annual or biennial thistle. Taproot is long and fleshy. Leaves are long, narrow and spiny. Flowers are drooping, purple and borne on erect flower stems in spring – summer. Seeds are attached to pappus.

What you need to know

To help protect our environment:

  • You must not breed, distribute, release or sell nodding thistle within the Auckland region.
  • You must not plant nodding thistle within the Auckland region.
  • You must destroy all nodding thistle plants on land that you occupy.

Pasture, wasteland, roadsides.

Seeds dispersed by wind, soil movement. Human-mediated dispersal through movement of contaminated soil, machinery and agricultural materials.

Suppresses valued pasture plants and impedes livestock access to forage. Allelopathic.

Site Management

Maintaining good pasture cover can prevent establishment or suppress an infestation. Prevent overgrazing especially in summer. Other herbicides are available for selective use in pasture.

Recommended approaches

Physical control

Method: Dig or grub out at least the first 5cm of taproot

Plant parts requiring disposal: Seeds

Disposal options: Remove to greenwaste or landfill if practical


Check for presence of agents:
Nodding thistle receptacle weevil (Rhinocyllus conicus)
Nodding thistle gall fly (Urophora solstitalis)
Nodding thistle crown weevil (Trichosirocalus horridus)

Community agrichemical control recommendations

No qualifications
Foliar spray with 100ml glyphosate green per 10L of water

Certified Handler/Experienced agrichemical user
Foliar spray with 100ml glyphosate green per 10L of water and 20ml penetrant

Safety notes

Plant has spines.

CAUTION: When using any herbicide or pesticide please read the label thoroughly to ensure that all instructions and safety requirements are followed.

Similar species

plumeless thistle
Carduus acanthoides

Plumeless thistle is very similar at rosette stage but has smaller, erect flower heads.

RPMP status

Whole region (Sustained Control)
Hauraki Gulf Controlled Area Notice pest
Nodding thistle - Main species image