Sonchus oleraceus (Common Sowthistle)

Plant Info
Also known as: Annual Sowthistle
Family:Asteraceae (Aster)
Life cycle:annual, biennial
  • Weedy
Habitat:sun; roadsides, disturbed sites, waste places, fields
Bloom season:July - October
Plant height:2 to 10 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: UPL MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 7+petals Cluster type: panicle

[photo of flowers] Tight clusters (corymbiform) of yellow dandelion type flowers, ¾ to 1¼ inch across, at the top of the stem and arising from leaf axils. Closed flower heads of bracts, receptacle and ray flowers (petals) is thick, barrel to vase shaped, sometimes finely hairy on the stalk below the cluster, and with several small attending leaves at the base of cluster.

Leaves: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: lobed Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are mostly deeply divided with triangular lobes, though upper leaves may be merely toothed or shallowly lobed. The lobe at the leaf tip is typically broadly spade shaped or triangular. Lower leaves are long stalked, up to 10 inches long and 2½ inches wide. Upper leaves are smaller and clasping, with angled lobes at the base of the leaf that extend past the stem. All leaves are coarsely toothed with small, soft prickles. Stems and leaf surfaces have a dull waxy sheen, stems crisp but brittle, very leafy,

Fruit: Fruit type: seed with plume

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a dark brown seed, slightly flattened and somewhat spindle shaped, with textured, wrinkly ribs and a tuft of bright white hairs to carry it off in the wind.


Common Sowthistle has become widely cosmopolitan throughout the Americas and Asia due to human activity. A sporadic weed of cultivated gardens and disturbed areas, it does not encroach readily into high grade habitats and is likely under reported within Minnesota. It is distinguished from other sowthistles primarily by the triangular lobes on the leaves and the angled lobes at the leaf base. It is less prickly than Sonchus asper (Spiny Sowthistle) and has smaller flowers than Sonchus arvensis (Perennial Sowthistle).

Native Plant Nurseries, Restoration and Landscaping Services ↓

Map of native plant resources in the upper midwest

  • Shop for native seeds and plants at!
  • Shooting Star Native Seeds - Native Prairie Grass and Wildflower Seeds
  • Morning Sky Greenery - Native Prairie Plants
  • Natural Shore Technologies - Using science to improve land and water
  • Minnesota Native Landscapes - Your Ecological Problem Solvers

More photos

Photos by Peter M. Dziuk, taken in a private vegetable garden in Anoka county.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Bruce - Minnetonka
on: 2015-07-12 12:22:24

I found a few of these on my property last year and this year they were more numerous. I got a clue after I saw it growing next to a Spiny Sowthistle and the two were quite similar. I am trying to maintain all native plants so I'm not sure if should start pulling it if it isn't too aggressive.

Posted by: Eudi - South Saint Paul
on: 2019-06-20 11:18:35

There are about 20 of these growing in an overgrown hosta bed on my property. its about 1.5x10 ft and these are there along with tons of Lady's Thumb.

Posted by: Sam Madsen - New Brighton
on: 2020-05-14 01:09:05

Got these all over my gardens. Add Ramsey County to the map.

Posted by: Kelan McKay - Minnetonka
on: 2020-09-09 13:23:56

pp good flower cute good for garden no bugs pp

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2020-09-09 15:18:07

Kelan, cute and good are in the eye of the beholder; "no bugs" means it isn't providing any value to our native pollinators, which I wouldn't consider so good.

Posted by: Luciearl - Lake Shore
on: 2022-08-29 21:05:17

Found a few of these growing on the shoreline.

Posted by: Lucas - Austin
on: 2023-05-27 11:36:28

Great for food, I like it with stew.

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2023-05-27 12:56:41

Lucas, there are many non-native plants that have some value to humans, but that doesn't mean they should be allowed to grow wherever they want.

Post a comment

Note: All comments are moderated before posting to keep the riff-raff out. An email address is required, but will not be posted—it will only be used for information exchange between the 2 of us (if needed) and will never be given to a 3rd party without your express permission.

For info on subjects other than plant identification (gardening, invasive species control, edible plants, etc.), please check the links and invasive species pages for additional resources.


Note: Comments or information about plants outside of Minnesota and neighboring states may not be posted because Id like to keep the focus of this web site centered on Minnesota. Thanks for your understanding.