Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Perennial Sow-thistle (Sonchus arvensis)

My favourite of the many dandelion-like Asteraceae species. (I do have several favourites, though.)  Of those native to the UK, this one has the biggest flowers.  It's also the tallest one that you're likely to meet on a regular basis, growing inland on wasteland, arable and road verges, as well as in coastal locations. (The rare Marsh Sow-thistle (Sonchus palustris), a specialist of tall waterside vegetation, can grow much taller).

It's common all through the back half of the year, flowering from late July onwards, but I value it even more as autumn draws on, and here it is still looking good in October.

A particularly immaculate flower that I noticed in N. France.

More commonly, the longer ray-florets round the edge give the flower a slightly shaggy appearance compared e.g. to dandelions.

Like other Sow-thistles, S. arvensis is edible (young leaves and roots are less bitter).  It has medicinal properties similar to dandelion. It can be an arable weed.

(Above..) Photo taken at 9 am, before the flowers are fully open.

Unlike many similar composites, this one has no red on its stems or leaves or buds. The interesting combination of olive-greeny bracts (clothed in yellowish glandular hairs) with bright yellow flowers is one of the plant's subtle attractions. 

Sonchus arvensis. Battle, 2 July 2021.

The first flower of the year, surrounded by, well, I make it around thirty buds.

Sonchus arvensis. Battle, 2 July 2021.

... with a colony of very small beetles in residence.

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At 8:38 pm, Anonymous Mr M Bullock said...

This plant is rather different to other similar types for one reason that I have yet to see commented on. It has a truly lovely scent to its flowers. Delicate subtle and rich, one of the best I have ever come across in aromatic flowers.
Take the trouble to try it you will be blown away. It is also it seems excluded from a lot of wild flower identification books and it was this web site that nailed its name for me.
I live in Basildon Essex and it's common here on forgotten small areas of land that councils once maintained and anywhere it gets a chance.


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