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Sowthistle Sonchus

Previously known as:

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Phonetic Spelling
SON-chus
Description

Sonchus oleraceus, or Sowthistle, is a genus of annual herbs, considered a winter and summer weed, and includes several species that are common in nurseries and landscapes. Most of the species are annual herbs, but a few are perennial and a few are even woody. The species can overlap the winter and summer annual categories. Seeds germinate in the fall or spring and are typically carried by the wind or water to propagate the plant. Seedlings form a rosette of waxy leaves with variable leaf margins. One of the most common species, spiny sowthistle, has prickly leaf margins. In contrast to wild lettuce (Lactuca spp.), sowthistle lacks prickles on the mid-vein of the leaves. In warm weather, plants bolt to about 3 to 4 feet tall but may be shorter. Flowers are bright yellow. Seedhead is similar to a dandelion but smaller.

This plant spreads by reseeding itself. Seeds have a pappus that aids wind and water dispersal and the plant can spread aggressively. Do not let plants go to seed in the nursery. You can manage the spread of the plant with applications of preemergence broadleaf herbicides labeled for use. This plant can often be controlled by mowing, because it does not regrow from root fragments.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems

Sowthistles are common host plants for aphids. This can be a blessing or a curse; aphids may spread from Sowthistle to other plants, but alternatively the Sowthistle can encourage the growth of beneficial predators such as hoverflies. In this regard, Sowthistles make excellent sacrificial plants.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#weed#edible weed#weedy#summer annual weed#winter annual weed#annual weed#annual herb
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#weed#edible weed#weedy#summer annual weed#winter annual weed#annual weed#annual herb
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Sonchus
    Species:
    oleraceus
    Family:
    Asteraceae
    Life Cycle:
    Annual
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Eurasia and North Africa
    Distribution:
    worldwide
    Edibility:
    Leaves can be added to salad and the stems, once the outer skin is removed, and can be cooked like asparagus.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Annual
    Weed
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Coarse
    Appendage:
    Prickles
    Spines
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil pH:
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    Less than 12 inches
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Black
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Achene
    Fruit Description:
    Each flowerhead is shortly replaced by numerous achenes with tufts of fluffy white hairs. Each dark achene is somewhat flattened, ribbed, and oblongoid; one end is somewhat broader than the other.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Radial
    Flower Petals:
    more than 20 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    The upper stems terminate in small clusters of flowerheads that are about ¾ of an inch across when they are fully open; these flowerheads bloom during the morning and close by noon. Each flowerhead consists of numerous yellow ray florets. The blooming period occurs from late spring to mid-summer and lasts about a month in a given locale; a few plants may bloom later in the year.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Purple/Lavender
    Leaf Feel:
    Prickly
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Pinnatifid
    Leaf Margin:
    Dentate
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Leaves are up to 8 inches long and 2¼ inches across, becoming smaller and more sparse up the central stem. Each lower leaf has deep triangular lobes. The upper leaves are more likely to be entire or have shallow lobes. The foliage contains a milky latex.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Purple/Lavender
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Form:
    Straight
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    The stem branches very little except near the apex where the flowerheads occur. The central stem is hairless and dull green; sometimes it is tinted with reddish purple
  • Landscape:
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Pollinators
    Problems:
    Weedy