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Common Sow-thistle

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Prickly and smooth sow-thistles are common weeds of cultivated areas very difficult to tell apart



Common sow-thistle: the rough with the smooth

Post date: Tuesday, 2 February, 2016 - 00:00

There are two common species of sow-thistle (Sonchus species) that are very similar and I am not competent enough to tell them apart and so I combine my sightings under the name 'common sow-thistle'. The two species are prickly but also known as rough sow-thistle (Sonchus asper) and smooth sow-thistle (Sonchus oleraceus).

They are different, of course, but the defining factor is whether the auricles of the leaves are rounded or not! Rough sow-thistle can have brighter yellow flowers, may have more pointed leaves, may prefer lime soils and is less likely to be seen in winter months. Smooth sow-thistle is probably the nore frequent of the two. Overall, they are quite unmistakably thistles but with yellow flowers that occur in clusters, have prickly leaves and exude a milky substrance if broken.

Undoubtedly weeds of cultivated areas the seed and spread quickly. The leaves are edible and are popular in Chinese cooking and the plant are used by herablists as a cure for gall stones, liver and kidney complaints and piles.


The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Sites List Distribution Map Some Charts Some Photographs Original Tweets Relatives Guidance Notes
Common Name Common Sow-thistle
Alternative Name(s) Prickly and Smooth Sow-thistles
Scientific Name Sonchus species
Family Daisy family - Compositae
Status Common
Interest Level
Species Family Daisy Family - Compositae
Flower Colour Group Yellow
  • 06 - June
  • 07 - July
  • 08 - August
Preferred Environment
Look for Tight dandelion-like fowers and prickly leaves
Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

This species is often found in these habitats:

Habitat(s) Relationship
BA: Arable farmland Associated
BF: Fringes - roadsides, bare ground & wasteland Associated