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Sonchus oleraceus - L.

Common Name Sow Thistle, Common sowthistle
Family Asteraceae or Compositae
USDA hardiness Coming soon
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Waysides, waste and cultivated ground[17]. A common weed, avoiding acid soils and shady positions[1].
Range Europe, including Britain, south and east from Scandanavia to N. Africa, N. and W. Asia.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Moist Soil Full sun
Sonchus oleraceus Sow Thistle, Common sowthistle

Sonchus oleraceus Sow Thistle, Common sowthistle


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Sonchus oleraceus is a BIENNIAL growing to 1 m (3ft 3in).
It is not frost tender. It is in flower from June to August, and the seeds ripen from July to September. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees, flies.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.



 Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves;  Root;  Stem.
Edible Uses: Gum.

Young leaves - raw or cooked[2, 4, 9, 13, 54]. This species has the nicest tasting leaves of the genus[153], they usually have a mild agreeable flavour[217] especially in the spring[K]. They can be added to salads, cooked like spinach or used in soups etc[183]. The leaves contain about 30 - 40mg of vitamin C per 100g[173], 1.2% protein, 0.3% fat, 2.4% carbohydrate, 1.2% ash[179]. A zero moisture analysis is also available[218]. It might be best, though it is not essential, to remove the marginal prickles[9]. Stems - cooked like asparagus or rhubarb[12]. They are best if the outer skin is removed first[183]. Young root - cooked[12]. They are woody and not very acceptable[144]. The milky sap has been used as a chewing gum by the Maoris of New Zealand[183].

Figures in grams (g) or miligrams (mg) per 100g of food.
Leaves (Dry weight)
  • 265 Calories per 100g
  • Water : 0%
  • Protein: 28g; Fat: 4.5g; Carbohydrate: 45g; Fibre: 5.9g; Ash: 22g;
  • Minerals - Calcium: 1500mg; Phosphorus: 500mg; Iron: 45.6mg; Magnesium: 0mg; Sodium: 0mg; Potassium: 0mg; Zinc: 0mg;
  • Vitamins - A: 35mg; Thiamine (B1): 1.5mg; Riboflavin (B2): 5mg; Niacin: 5mg; B6: 0mg; C: 60mg;
  • Reference: [ ]
  • Notes:

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Cancer;  Emmenagogue;  Febrifuge;  Hepatic;  Hydrogogue;  Poultice;  Tonic;  Warts.

The plant is emmenagogue and hepatic[61, 257]. An infusion has been used to bring on a tardy menstruation and to treat diarrhoea[257]. The latex in the sap is used in the treatment of warts[218]. It is also said to have anticancer activity[218]. The stem juice is a powerful hydrogogue and cathartic, it should be used with great caution since it can cause colic and tenesmus[218]. The gum has been used as a cure for the opium habit[257]. The leaves are applied as a poultice to inflammatory swellings[4]. An infusion of the leaves and roots is febrifuge and tonic[240].

Other Uses

Gum;  Latex.

The latex in the stem contains 0.14% rubber, but this is much too low for commercial exploitation[218].

Cultivation details

Succeeds in most soils in a sunny position. This plant has been cultivated for its edible leaves by the Maoris of New Zealand[153]. The plant is a good companion for onions, tomatoes, corn as well as the cucumber and squash family[14].


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Seed - sow spring in situ. This species is a common garden weed and should not need any encouragement.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Sonchus arvensisField Milk Thistle, Field sowthistle, Moist sowthistle21
Sonchus asperPrickly Sow Thistle, Spiny sowthistle21
Sonchus brachyotus 11
Sonchus kirkiiShore Sow Thistle10
Sonchus tenerrimusClammy Sow Thistle, Slender sowthistle10


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Botanical References


Links / References

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Readers comment

Stephen Mifsud   Tue Feb 25 11:58:45 2003

Link: Malta Wild Plants Online Database Information, botanical details, high quality photos

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