Introduced from Eurasia, this is a winter annual or biennial which reproduces by seed. The first year’s growth is a large, compact rosette from a large, fleshy, corky taproot. The second year stem is erect, spiny, two to six feet tall and branched at the top.
The waxy leaves are dark green with a light green midrib and mostly white margins; flowers are purple or occasionally white.
Musk thistle is also known as “nodding thistle” and is commonly found in pastures, roadsides and waste areas. It prefers moist bottomland soil, but also can be found on drier uplands. It is found scattered throughout Garfield County, with the largest population in the Crystal River Valley.