Selected Plants of Navajo Rangelands

Take care of our Navajo Rangelands

Thistle, musk
Azee’okani’whooshí, Azee’okani’deniní
(a.k.a. nodding plumeless thistle)

Bright pink blossom with spiny bracts below it

Musk thistle is a colony-forming weed, growing up to six feet tall, with a spiny stem and long, fleshy taproot. Musk thistle reproduces solely by seed. Musk thistle invades pasture, range, and forestlands. It is often found on roadsides, waste areas, ditch banks, stream banks and in grain fields. It spreads rapidly, forming extremely dense stands that crowd out desirable forage. Musk thistle is shade intolerant. It is adapted to a broad range of soils, but establishment is best on bare soil. Musk thistle is tolerant of saline and acidic soils and can be a noxious weed.

Chemical control is effective. An introduced biological control agent, the musk thistle weevil, feeds on the seeds and can limit the spread of this plant, but will not eliminate it. Musk thistle is not palatable to livestock because of its long sharp spines.

Musk thistle does provide a source of nectar for high quality honey.

*Description based on description at Utah State University's Range Plants of Utah.

A flower just beginning to open--most of it is spines!
A frontal view of a flower, showing a pink ring of disk flowers. The deeper red bracts form a ring around the entire flower
Spiny leaves in a basal rosette formation of a young plant
Side view of a flower showing how much of it is spiny bracts with the pink disk flowers standing straight up from the base of the flower
A flower just beginning to open
As the flower ages, the disk flowers spread farther apart, and the bracts become slightly brown

Copyright 2018 New Mexico State University. Individual photographers retain all rights to their images. Partially funded by the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (; 435.797.2257), project EW15-023. Programs and projects supported by Western SARE are equally open to all people. NMSU is an equal opportunity/affirmative action educator and employer..

NMSU does not discriminate on the basis of age, ancestry, color, disability, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, race, religion, retaliation, serious medical condition, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, spousal affiliation or protected veteran status in its programs and activities as required by equal opportunity/affirmative action regulations and laws and university policy and rules. For more information please read the NMSU Notice of Non-discrimination (opens in new window).