perennial sow thistle

(Sonchus arvensis)

perennial sow thistle
Photo by Alfredo Colon

Perennial sow thistle, also called field sow thistle, is a very common exotic weed. It is native to Europe and Asia. It was introduced and naturalized into North America. It is now common across the northern half of the United States and it also occurs in the southwest. It is mostly absent from the southeast and south-central regions. It is very common in Minnesota. It is found in urban areas, on stream banks and roadsides, and in disturbed areas.


Perennial sow thistle is a tall plant with showy yellow flowers. Stems and leaves exude a milky sap when broken or torn. Lower leaves are deeply divided into more or less triangular lobes. Upper leaves are often shallowly lobed or unlobed. The leaf margins are toothed and prickly. The inflorescence is an array of up to 20 flower heads. Flower heads are yellow and large, up to 1¾ in diameter when fully open.

Vegetatively, perennial sow thistle looks much like Canada lettuce, but that plant has much smaller, less showy flowers. Other sow thistles also have smaller flowers.

There are two subspecies of perennial sow thistle. Both are present in Minnesota. Sonchus arvensis ssp. arvensis is very common, S. a. ssp. arvensis is uncommon.


Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 22, 24, 28, 29, 30.

  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Asteranae  


Asterales (sunflowers, bellflowers, fanflowers, and allies)  


Asteraceae (sunflowers, daisies, asters, and allies)  
  Subfamily Cichorioideae (chicories, dandelions, and allies)  
  Tribe Cichorieae (lettuce, chicory, dandelion, and salsify)  
  Subtribe Hyoseridinae  
  Genus Sonchus (sow thistles)  

Subordinate Taxa


field sowthistle (Sonchus arvensis ssp. arvensis)

moist sowthistle (Sonchus arvensis ssp. uliginosus)






Common Names


creeping sowthistle

field sow thistle

field sow-thistle

field sowthistle

perennial sowthistle

perennial sow thistle












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Alfredo Colon

    perennial sow thistle   perennial sow thistle  


    perennial sow thistle      


    perennial sow thistle   perennial sow thistle  


    perennial sow thistle   perennial sow thistle  



  Sonchus arvensis
Susanne Wiik
  Sonchus arvensis  

Åkerdylle, Corn Sow Thistle

  Sonchus arvensis FIELD SOW THISTLE
Frank Mayfield
  Sonchus arvensis FIELD SOW THISTLE  



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Other Videos
  Corn Sow Thistle (Sonchus Arvensis) / Dindle - 2012-07-06

Published on Jul 12, 2012

Sonchus arvensis (Corn Sow Thistle, Dindle, Field Sow Thistle, Gutweed, Swine Thistle, Tree Sow Thistle, Field Sowthistle, Field Milk Thistle) is a medicinal plant.

De akkermelkdistel (Sonchus arvensis) is een plant uit de composietenfamilie (Asteraceae).

  Environmental Laboratory - U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Published on Feb 15, 2013

Sonchus arvensis - Field Sowthistle

  Weed Of The Week #600-Perennial Sow Thistle (From Ag PhD #600 10/4/09)

Uploaded on Oct 8, 2009

If you thought we'd run out of thistles to talk about, your wrong. Here's this week's Weed of the Week, Perennial Sow Thistle.




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  Alfredo Colon
8/2 and 8/4/2019

Location: Woodbury, Minnesota

perennial sow thistle  

Agassiz Dunes SNA (MN DNR)

Antelope Valley SNA

Baker Park Reserve

Belgium Prairie

Big Stone Lake State Park

Blanket Flower Prairie SNA

Buffalo River State Park

Butterwort Cliffs SNA

Cedar Mountain SNA

Cedar Rock SNA

Charles A. Lindbergh State Park

Clifton E. French Regional Park

Clinton Prairie SNA

Cottonwood River Prairie SNA

Des Moines River SNA

Elm Creek Park Reserve

Falls Creek SNA

Felton Prairie SNA, Bicentennial Unit

Felton Prairie SNA, Shrike Unit

Flandrau State Park

Foxhome Prairie

Glacial Lakes State Park

Glendalough State Park

Glynn Prairie SNA

Hole-in-the-Mountain Prairie

John Murtaugh Memorial WMA

Kettledrummer Prairie

Langhei Prairie SNA

Leif Mountain

Malmberg Prairie SNA

Margherita Preserve-Audubon Prairie

Minnesota Valley NWR, Louisville Swamp Unit

Mound Spring Prairie SNA, North Unit

Myhr Creek Ridge SNA

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Hoffman Unit

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Pavia Unit

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Spieker Unit

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Touch the Sky Prairie Unit

Old Mill State Park

Ordway Prairie

Oronoco Prairie SNA

Otter Tail Prairie SNA

Pembina Trail Preserve SNA, Crookston Prairie Unit

Plover Prairie, East Unit

Prairie Coteau SNA

Prairie Creek WMA, Koester Prairie Unit

Prairie Smoke Dunes SNA

Red Rock Prairie

Regal Meadow

Richard M. & Mathilde Rice Elliott SNA

Rock Ridge Prairie SNA

Sandpiper Prairie SNA

Santee Prairie SNA

Savage Fen SNA

Scenic State Park

Schaefer Prairie

Sibley State Park

Spring Prairie Preserve

Thorson Prairie WMA

Town Hall Prairie

Twin Valley Prairie Addition

Twin Valley Prairie SNA

Twin Valley WMA: North Unit

Tympanuchus Prairie

Vermillion River WMA

Wild River State Park

Woodbury WMA

Yellow Bank Hills SNA







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