This gorgeous thistle was a new plant for me when I discovered it in a local farm field a couple of days ago. It’s a Musk thistle (Carduus nutans), also known as Nodding thistle, and it’s precisely the nodding habit of its growth that alerted me to something new.
Its flowers, though a glorious and vibrant pinky purple, droop downwards, nodding on long spineless stems and, in fact, compared to the upright habit of other thistles I see, this one’s growth habit overall is very droopy. It’s a bit of a sloucher, though, as its name suggests, those flowers have a musky smell that bees find particularly attractive, and several butterflies seemed to like it too.
The Plantlife website provides some interesting facts about the Musk thistle: apparently ‘its fleshy stem is edible and said to be delicious after peeling and boiling’ and ‘medicinally, the leaves have been used as a tonic to stimulate liver function, whereas the flowers have been used to reduce fevers and purify the blood.’