Russian Knapweed

Rhaponticum repens

Russian Knapweed

Family: Asteraceae

Other Scientific Names:

Acroptilon repens

Other Common Names: hardheads, Turkestan thistle
Weed class: B
Year Listed: 1988
Native to: Russia and Eastern Europe
Is this Weed Toxic?:


Why Is It a Noxious Weed?

It is an aggressive invader of pastures, non-crop areas, grain fields and other cultivated fields. In addition, the plant is poisonous to horses, causing chewing disease (equine nigropallidal encephalomalacia). Livestock may avoid this species.

How would I identify it?

General Description

Russian knapweed is a bushy, branched perennial, reaching 1 to 3 feet tall and forming clones or colonies from vigorous, deep, spreading rhizomes.

Flower Description

Many flower heads, pink to purple in color. The outer bracts under the flower heads are greenish to straw colored and have a broad, papery tip.

Leaf description

Leaves at the base of the stem (basal leaves) are gray-green and lobed. Upper stem leaves are smaller with toothed edges or entire (smooth) edges.

Stem description

Stems are upright, branched and hairy. Young plants are whitish and woolly.

Fruit Seed Description

Seeds (achenes) are ivory white and have a feather-like plume (pappus).

Where does it grow?

Russian knapweed is found growing in pastures, hayfields, grain fields, irrigation ditches as well as roadsides. Please click here to see a county level distribution map of Russian knapweed in Washington.

How Does it Reproduce?

Russian knapweed reproduces by seed and spreads laterally by its root system. Root fragments can regenerate following cultivation.

How Do I Control It?

General Control Strategy

Productivity can be maximized in less time if Russian knapweed populations are treated with a suitable herbicide, farmed, and seeded to a competitive forage.

Cultural Control

Depending on the moisture regime, nitrogen fertilizer applied in conjunction with an herbicide significantly improves the competitiveness of residual grasses. In addition, improved grazing management will significantly influence the life span of Russian knapweed control efforts.

Biological Control

The nematode Subanguina picridis forms galls on Russian knapweed that reduce plant vigor - its effectiveness in Washington is not yet known.

Herbicide Control

It is difficult to control with herbicide. Please refer to the PNW Weed Management Handbook, or contact your county noxious weed coordinator.

For More Information

Selected Knapweeds of Washington Brochure

See our Written Findings for more information about Russian knapweed.

Douglas County NWCB Fact Sheet on Russian knapweed

Lincoln County NWCB Fact Sheet on Russian knapweed

Whatcom County NWCB Control Options for Knapweeds

Additional Photos