Sow Thistle

Sow Thistle


Botanical Name: Sonchus oleraceus

Common names: Common sow thistle, sow thistle, annual sow thistle, milk thistle, milkweed, thalaak, colewort, hares lettuce, soft thistle.


Sow thistles are an erect, herbaceous, taprooted annual that can grow to over 1m in height if the plant is damaged or cut it exudes a milky latex.

The leaves develop as a basal rosette.A stem will emerge from the centre and will be sheathed in leaves which alternate on the stem.The leaves are ovoid and deeply divided with irregularly toothed margins ending in soft spines.Some leaves can grow to around 25cm in size.

The flower is yellow and composite, meaning its made up of florets(lots of small flowers making one big flower)When each of the flowers matures they turn into seeds just like the dandelion which are dispersed by the wind.Each flower is around 0.5cm in size.


The leaves can be eaten raw in salads or cooked like spinach and used in soups and casseroles. 

The flowers can be eaten raw or cooked.

The stem can be cooked like asparagus although it is best to peel first.

This is one species that is used in Chinese cuisine kŭcài which means bitter vegetable.


The plant has been used treat warts, inflammation, blood purification, headaches, diarrhoea, liver infections, fevers and also used as a sedative.