Sowthistle -Sonchus spp

Latin Name: Sonchus spp













Description: An erect annual hairy herb with a milky sap. It is 40 to 60 cm high, bluish-green, the leaves are alternate, do not have stalks and half clasp the stem. Leaves are 10 to 20 cm long and very coarsely lobed. Flower heads are about 1 cm long and yellow. The fruit is dry and 3 ribbed, it opens to a round white ball. The seeds blow in the wind.

Notes: It is a commercially cultivated vegetable.

Edibility Rating out of 5: 2

Medicinal Rating out of 5: 2

Sonchus spp











Edible Uses: Young leaves – raw or cooked, they can be added to salads, cooked like spinach or used in soups etc. The leaves contain about 30 – 40mg of vitamin C per 100g, 1.2% protein, 0.3% fat, 2.4% carbohydrate, 1.2% ash. It might be best, though it is not essential, to remove the marginal prickles. Stems – cooked like asparagus or rhubarb. They are best if the outer skin is removed first. Young roots can be coocked. The Maoris of New Zealand use the milky sap as a chewing gum and use the plant in the traditional dish Puha and Pakeha.

Warnings: Some forms and species are very bitter.

Medicinal Uses: Cancer; Emmenagogue; Febrifuge; Hepatic; Hydrogogue; Poultice; Tonic; Warts.

Medicinal Information: The plant is emmenagogue and hepatic. An infusion has been used to bring on a tardy menstruation and to treat diarrhoea. The latex in the sap is used in the treatment of warts. It is also said to have anticancer activity. The stem juice is a powerful hydrogogue and cathartic, it should be used with great caution since it can cause colic and tenesmus. The gum has been used as a cure for the opium habit. The leaves are applied as a poultice to inflammatory swellings. An infusion of the leaves and roots is febrifuge and tonic.













Other Uses:  Gum; Latex.

The latex in the stem contains 0.14% rubber, but this is much too low for commercial exploitation.



3 thoughts on “Sowthistle -Sonchus spp

  1. Godfred Caspar

    There is some good information on sonchus species in the books by Philip Clarke.
    It seems that it was quickly adopted by indigenous people (in Australia and NZ) even
    though it is probably an introduced species here. It was also given names in various
    Australian languages. Clarke mentions indigenous australians eating the stems of the
    plant like celery.

    1. admin Post author

      thanks Godfred.
      Yes it has been adopted readily by indigenous Australians, but it is not yet certain it is an introduced specie at all. I am aware of a yet unpublished paper arguing for it to be considered a native.
      Regardless of PHD results the plant is by now naturalised.

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