Wild Flowers of Pittsburgh

Sow Thistle (Sonchus oleraceus)

Nasty prickly weeds that they are, the Sow Thistles have a certain architectural elegance. The buds are shaped like a fine glass vase, and the clasping leaves are a particulary attractive dark green. Sow Thistles are edible, apparently, if you catch them young or don’t mind sticking sharp things in your mouth. This one was blooming beside a telephone pole in Beechview in early November.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

SONCHUS [Tourn.] L. SOW THISTLE.
Heads many-flowered, becoming tumid at base. Involucre more or less imbricated. Achenes obcompressed, ribbed or striate, not beake; pappus copious, of very white exceedingly soft and fine bristles mainly falling together. Leafy -stemmed coarse weeds, chiefly smooth and glaucous, with corymbed or umbellate heads of yellow flowers produced in summer and autumn. (The ancient Greek name.)

Annual; flowers pale yellow.

S. OLERACEUS L. (COMMON S.) Stem-leaves runcinate-pinnatifid, rarely undivided, slightly toothed with soft spiny teeth, clasping by a heart-shaped base, the auricles acute; involucre downy when young; achenes striate, also wrinkled transversely. Waste places, chiefly in manured soil and around dwellings. (Nat. from Eu.)

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