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Sonchus oleraceus

Sonchus oleraceus (*)

Classification System: APG IV

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiosperms
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: Core eudicots
Cladus: Asterids
Cladus: Campanulids
Ordo: Asterales

Familia: Asteraceae
Subfamilia: Cichorioideae
Tribus: Cichorieae
Subtribus: Hyoseridinae
Genus: Sonchus
Subgenus: Sonchus subg. Sonchus
Section: Sonchus sect. Sonchus
Species: Sonchus oleraceus

Sonchus oleraceus L.

Hieracium oleraceum (L.) Scop.
Hieracium spinulosum (Lapeyr.) Steud.
Lepicaune spinulosa Lapeyr.
Sonchus asper Gaertn. Mey. & Scherb.
Sonchus ciliatus Lam.
Sonchus fabrae Sennen
Sonchus glaber Gilib.
Sonchus gracilis Phil.
Sonchus lacerus Willd.
Sonchus laevis Garsault
Sonchus laevis Vill (
Sonchus longifolius Trevir.
Sonchus macrotus Fenzl
Sonchus mairei H. Lév.
Sonchus oleraceus var. litoralis P. D. Sell
Sonchus oleraceus var. runcinatus Fiori
Sonchus parviflorus Lej. ex Rchb.
Sonchus reversus E. Mey. ex DC.
Sonchus rivularis Phil.
Sonchus roseus Bess.
Sonchus royleanus DC.
Sonchus runcinatus Zenari
Sonchus schimperi A. Br. & Bouche
Sonchus schmidianus C. Koch
Sonchus sundaicus Bl.
Sonchus tenerrimus Schur
Sonchus umbellifer Thunb.
Sonchus zacinthoides DC.

Native distribution areas:

Continental: Europe
England, Channel Isl., Ireland, Northern Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, France, Andorra, Portugal, Spain, Baleares (Ibiza & Formentera, Mallorca, Menorca), Gibraltar, Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Italy, Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, Malta, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Hercegovina, Serbia & Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece (incl. Kiklades), Crete, East Aegaean Isl., Rhodos, European Turkey
Continental: Africa
Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Azores (Santa Maria Isl., Sao Miguel Isl., Terceira, Graciosa, Sao Jorge, Pico, Faial, Flores Isl., Corvo Isl.), Madeira (Madeira Isl., Porto Santo Isl.), Islas Selvagens, Canary Isl. (Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Tenerife, La Gomera, Hierro, La Palma Isl.), Cape Verde Isl. (Santo Antao Isl., Sao Vicente Isl., Ilha de Sao Nicolau, Sal Isl., Ilha de Maio, Ilha de Sao Tiago, Fogo Isl., Ilha Brava)

References: Brummitt, R.K. 2001. TDWG – World Geographical Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions, 2nd Edition

Linnaeus, C. 1753. Species Plantarum. Tomus II: 794. Reference page.


Hassler, M. 2019. Sonchus oleraceus. World Plants: Synonymic Checklists of the Vascular Plants of the World In: Roskovh, Y., Abucay, L., Orrell, T., Nicolson, D., Bailly, N., Kirk, P., Bourgoin, T., DeWalt, R.E., Decock, W., De Wever, A., Nieukerken, E. van, Zarucchi, J. & Penev, L., eds. 2019. Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life. Published on the internet. Accessed: 2019 Mar. 25. Reference page.
International Plant Names Index. 2019. Sonchus oleraceus. Published online. Accessed: Mar. 25 2019.
The Plant List 2013. Sonchus oleraceus in The Plant List Version 1.1. Published on the internet. Accessed: 2019 Mar. 25. 2019. Sonchus oleraceus. Missouri Botanical Garden. Published on the internet. Accessed: 2019 Mar. 25.
USDA, ARS, Germplasm Resources Information Network. Sonchus oleraceus in the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. Accessed: 07-Oct-06.

Vernacular names
Afrikaans: Sydissel
العربية: تفاف زيتي
беларуская: Асот агародны
català: Lletsó d'hort
corsu: Lattaghjolu
kaszëbsczi: Mléczôk
čeština: mléč zelinný
dansk: Almindelig Svinemælk
Deutsch: Gemüse-Gänsedistel
Ελληνικά: Ζοχός
English: Smooth Sowthistle
Esperanto: Ordinara sonko
español: Cerraja
suomi: Kaalivalvatti
français: Laiteron commun
Gaelg: Bee conning
עברית: מרור הגינות
magyar: Szelíd csorbóka
հայերեն: Կաթնբեկ բանջարանոցային
italiano: Cicerbita
日本語: ノゲシ
한국어: 방가지똥
lietuvių: Daržinė pienė
Nederlands: Gewone melkdistel
polski: Mlecz zwyczajny
português: Serralha
Runa Simi: Salsa-salsa
русский: Осот огородный
slovenčina: Mlieč zelinný
slovenščina: Navadna škrbinka
svenska: Kålmolke
Türkçe: Eşekmarulu
удмурт: Йӧны
中文: 苦苣菜

Sonchus oleraceus is a species of flowering plant in the dandelion tribe Cichorieae of the daisy family Asteraceae, native to Europe and Western Asia. It has many common names including common sowthistle,[2] sow thistle,[3] smooth sow thistle, annual sow thistle, hare's colwort, hare's thistle, milky tassel, milk thistle.[4] and soft thistle.[4]

Its specific epithet oleraceus means "vegetable/herbal".[5][6][a] The common name 'sow thistle' refers to its attractiveness to pigs, 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.[7]

Botanical characteristics

This annual plant has a hollow, upright stem up to 30–100 cm high.[8] It prefers full sun, and can tolerate most soil conditions. The flowers are hermaphroditic, and common pollinators include bees and flies.[9] 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.[10][11] In Australia it is a common and widespread invasive species, with large infestations a serious problem in crops.[12]
Runcinate leaf
Flower of Sonchus oleraceus.jpg
Green salad with carrot, cucumber, onion, sowthistle leaves, and tomato slices

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). The younger leaves are less bitter and better to eat raw. Steaming can remove the bitterness of older leaves.[13] The younger roots are also edible and can suffice as a coffee substitute.[14]

Nutritive qualities

Nutritional analysis reveals 30 – 40 mg of vitamin C per 100g, 1.2% protein, 0.3% fat, 2.4% carbohydrate. Leaf dry matter analysis per 100g (likely to vary with growing conditions) shows: 45g Carbohydrate, 28g protein, 22g ash, 5.9g fibre, 4.5g fat; in all, providing 265 calories.


Calcium: 1500 mg
Phosphorus: 500 mg
Iron: 45.6 mg
Magnesium: 0 mg
Sodium: 0 mg
Potassium: 0 mg
Zinc: 0 mg


A: 35 mg
Thiamine (B1): 1.5 mg
Riboflavin (B2): 5 mg
Niacin: 5 mg
B6: 0 mg
C: 60 mg


Sonchus oleraceus has a variety of uses in herbalism. It also has been ascribed medicinal qualities similar to dandelion and succory.[7] The early Māori people of New Zealand are likely to have gathered it for food and medical use.[15]

Native Americans had many uses for this plant. Pima used its gum as a "cure for the opium habit," as a cathartic, and as a food, where the "{l}eaves and stems {were} rubbed between the palms of the hands and eaten raw" and sometimes "boiled." The Yaqui used the plant as a vegetable, where the "{t}ender, young leaves boiled in salted water with chile and eaten as greens." The Kamia (Kumeyaay) "boiled {the} leaves {and} used {it} for food as greens." The {Houma} used it as an abortifacient where an "{i}nfusion of {the} plant {was} taken to 'make tardy menstruation come;'" an antidiarrheal; for children that were teething; and as hog feed.[16]

This plant can often be controlled by mowing, because it does not regrow from root fragments.[11] Attempts at weed control by herbicide, to the neglect of other methods, may have led to proliferation of this species in some environments.[17]


For the generic name's etymology, see Sonchus.


The Plant List, Sonchus oleraceus (L.) L.
USDA, NRCS (n.d.). "Sonchus oleraceus". The PLANTS Database ( Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team. Retrieved 19 November 2015.
Sonchus oleraceus at Plants For A Future
International Environmental Weed Foundation, retrieved 24 December 2015
Parker, Peter (2018). A Little Book of Latin for Gardeners. Little Brown Book Group. p. 328. ISBN 978-1-4087-0615-2. "oleraceus, holeraceus = relating to vegetables or kitchen garden"
Whitney, William Dwight (1899). The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia. Century Co. p. 2856. "L. holeraceus, prop. oleraceus, herb-like, holus, prop. olus (oler-), herbs, vegetables"
"A Modern Herbal | Sow-Thistles". Retrieved 2014-07-12.
Tanaka, Yoshitaka; Van Ke, Nguyen (2007). Edible Wild Plants of Vietnam: The Bountiful Garden. Thailand: Orchid Press. p. 52. ISBN 978-9745240896.
"Sonchus oleraceus Sow Thistle, Common sowthistle PFAF Plant Database".
Sonchus oleraceus Archived 2007-04-28 at the Wayback Machine at Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants Archived 2007-03-25 at the Wayback Machine
Sonchus oleraceus L., Asteraceae, Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER)
"Common sowthistle Sonchus oleraceus". Weeds Australia. Retrieved 25 September 2014.
Nyerges, Christopher (2016). Foraging Wild Edible Plants of North America: More than 150 Delicious Recipes Using Nature's Edibles. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 169. ISBN 978-1-4930-1499-6.
Nyerges, Christopher (2017). Foraging Washington: Finding, Identifying, and Preparing Edible Wild Foods. Guilford, CT: Falcon Guides. ISBN 978-1-4930-2534-3. OCLC 965922681.
Cambie, Richard C; Ferguson, Lynnette R (2003). "Potential functional foods in the traditional Maori diet". Mutation Research/Fundamental and Molecular Mechanisms of Mutagenesis. 523–524: 109–117. doi:10.1016/S0027-5107(02)00344-5. ISSN 0027-5107. PMID 12628508.
"BRIT - Native American Ethnobotany Database".
"Management of common sowthistle | Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry | Queensland Government". 2012-08-16. Retrieved 2013-01-16.

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