State Museum of Natural History
Biodiversity Data Centre

Sonchus oleraceus L.

  • Sonchus ciliatus Lam.
  • Sonchus lacerus Willd.
  • Sonchus royleanus DC.
  • Sonchus subbipinnatifidus (Guss.) Zenari
Vernacular Name
Common Sowthistle, Sow Thistle, Smooth Sow Thistle, Annual Sow Thistle, Hare's Colwort, Hare's Thistle, Milky Tassel
Conservation status
No status defined
Value of species
Occurrence: Ab(A, N), AE(G, T), Ag, Al, Ar, Au(A, L), Be(B, L), BH, Bl(I, M, N), Br, Bu, By, dCa(C, F, G, H, L, P, T), Cg, Co, Cr, Cs, Ct, Cy, Da, Eg, Es, Fe, Ga(C, F, M), Ge, Gg, Gr, Hb(E, N), He, Ho, Hs(A, G, S), Hu, Ir, It, Jo, La, Le, Li, Lt, Lu, Ma, dMd(D, M, P), Mk, Mo, No, Po, Rf(C, CS, E, K, N, NW, S), Rm, Sa, dSg, Si(M, S), Sk, Sl, Sn, Sr, Su, Sy, Tn, Tu(A, E), Uk(K, U), [Ag, Az(C, F, G, J, L, M, P, S, T), aIs] (EuroMed, 2018). Sonchus oleraceus is native to Europe and western Asia. The scientific name Sonchus refers to the hollow stem, while oleraceus refers to its good taste. The common name sow thistle refers to its attractiveness to swine, and the similarity of the leaf to younger thistle plants. The common name hare's thistle refers to its purported beneficial effects on hare and rabbits. This plant is annual herb with a hollow, upright stem of up to 30–100 cm high. Prefers full sun, and can tolerate most soil conditions. The flowers are hermaphroditic, and common pollinators include bees and flies. It spreads by seeds being carried by wind or water. This plant is considered an invasive species in many parts of the world, where it is found mostly in disturbed areas. In Australia it is a common and widespread invasive species, with large infestations a serious problem in crops. Leaves are eaten as salad greens or cooked like spinach. This is one of the species used in Chinese cuisine as kŭcài (苦菜; lit. bitter vegetable). Blanching or boiling removes bitter flavour. Sonchus oleraceus has a variety of uses in herbalism. It also has been ascribed medicinal qualities similar to dandelion and succory. The early Māori people of New Zealand are likely to have gathered it for food and medical use. This plant can often be controlled by mowing, because it does not regrow from root fragments. Attempts at weed control by herbicide, to the neglect of other methods, may have led to proliferation of this species in some environments.
Book reference
  • Кузярін О.Т. Судинні рослини території торфовища "Білогорща” (м. Львів) // Наукові основи збереження біотичної різноманітності. - 2010. - Т.1(8), №1. - С.75-90.
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  • Alexander KUZYARIN, Dr, e-mail:

Taxonomic branch

Asteraceae (=Compositae)