on sowthistle

Pic from the Royal Botanic Garden Herbarioum

AKA: DE : Kohl-Gänsedistel ; ES : cerraja común ; FR : laiteron maraîcher ;
IT : grespino comune, sonco ; PT : serralha-macia ; EN : smooth sow-thistle ;
NL : gewone melkdistel ; DK : almindelig svinemælk

This is one of two Sonchus spp. (Sowthistles) that you observed in Sydney. Both groups of plants have a milky latex, unlike true thistles. The Common Sowthistle can be distinguished from Sonchus asper (Prickly Sowthistle) by its foliage – the former has dull green foliage with pairs of pointed lobes at the base of each leaf, while the latter has shiny green foliage with pairs of rounded lobes at the base of each leaf. Also, the leaves of Common Sowthistle are more deeply lobed and triangular-shaped than the leaves of Prickly Sowthistle.


Abortifacient [Houma (Cajun culture, Luisianna, USA)]; anticancer (sap); antidiarrheal [Houma]; anti-inflammatory [China]; “blood purifier“[Houma]; calms the nerves (leaves); cathartic [Pima (American indian, Arizona, USA), Turkey]; clears infections [China]; cure for opium addiction [China]; digestive purgative [Pima]; diuretic [Turkey]; emmenagogue; emollient [Haiti]; febrifuge (leaves and roots infused); gynecological aid [Potawatomi (S. arvensis)]; heart medicine [Navaho (S. asper)]; hepatic; hydrogogue (stem juice) [Turkey]; insecticide; lactogogue [Turkey]; mild laxative [New Zealand]; narcotic [China]; pectoral; pediatric aid [Houma, Iroquois (S. asper)]; poison [Navaho (S. asper)]; poultice; refrigerant [Spain, Turkey]; sedative [China, Iroquois (S. asper)]; stop bleeding [China]; to prevent infection [New Zealand]; tonic [Sudan, Turkey]; toothache remedy [Houma]; vermicide [Tanzania].

1) Clears heat and toxin.
2) Invigorates blood and stops bleeding.
3) Clears heat and fire ~.
4) Clears damp heat ~.
5) Cools the blood ~.

Common Sowthistle is native to Eurasia and North Africa. Habitats include fields, pastures, roadsides, gardens and edges of yards, vacant lots, areas adjacent to buildings, construction sites, and waste places. Disturbed areas are strongly preferred.
Sowthistles, Sonchus oleraceus and S. asper (Asteraceae), are common weeds throughout Australia.
S. oleraceus was identified as one of the major weeds of Australian cropping systems, especially in South-East Queensland and Northern New South Wales (NSW). Its incidence has increased over the past two decades (Walker et al. 2005, Widderick et al. 1999) and its importance as a weed in southern Australia is also increasing (Chauhan et al. 2006).

“The juice is useful in deafness, either from accidental stoppage, gout or old age. Four spoonfuls of the juice of the leaves, two of salad oil, and one teaspoonful of salt, shake the whole well together and put some on cotton dipped in this composition into the ears and you may reasonably expect a good degree of recovery.” Also: “The juice boiled or thoroughly heated in a little oil of bitter almonds in the peel of a pomegranate, and dropped into the ears, is a sure remedy for deafness, singings, etc.”
– – Nicholas Culpepper
[Please note: this is most likely “deafness” due to earwax.]

• It is recorded by Pliny (Caius Plinius Secundus, A.D. 23-79) that before Theseus encountered the bull of Marathon, he had a meal of sow thistles.
• According to the 16th century herbalist John Gerard, unscrupulous upholsterers filled mattresses and pillows with sow thistle down instead of goose down.
• Sonchus is a prime example of a “DYC” among botanists: a “Damned Yellow Compositae.” They are so named because of the difficulty in differentiating species within the family. See Habitat.
• Traditionally used similar to dandelion.

See here for a selection of reference links to the plant.

Pic from illinoisewildflowers.i nfo

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