Nodding Thistle Carduus nutans
Order: Asterales. Family: Asteraceae
Addo Elephant National ParkDescription
Mature plants range in height from 1–1.5 m tall and have multi-branched stems. This thistle has sharply spiny stems and leaves. The stem is cottony/hairy. The plants develop a rosette, with large leaves 30–60 cm long. The leaves are dark green, coarsely bipinnately lobed, with a smooth, waxy surface and sharp yellow-brown to whitish spines at the tips of the lobes.They are more or less hairy on top, and wooly on the veins below. The plant bears showy red-purple flowers. The large globose flower heads, containing hundreds of tiny individual flowers, are 3–5 cm diameter and occur at the tips of stems. The flower heads commonly droop to a 90° to 120° angle from the stem when mature, hence the name of "Nodding thistle". Each plant may produce thousands of straw-colored seeds adorned with plume-like bristles. They are 4 to 6 cm across, with purple-red bracts.Distribution
Native to Europe and Asia. Invasive plant in the Eastern Cape, NEMBA Category 1b. It is now widespread in areas like Grahamstown, Cradock, Kenton-on-Sea, Paterson and Addo. Habitat
The nodding thistle grows from sea level to an elevation of about 2 500 m. It is found in neutral to acidic soils. It typically grows in meadows and grasslands, heavily grazed areas such as pastures and in disturbed soil such as roadsides and building sites. It spreads rapidly in areas subjected to frequent natural disturbances such as landslides and flooding, but does not grow well in excessively wet, dry or shady conditions.