Sonchus arvensis

Scientific Name Sonchus arvensis
Common Names English: Perennial sow thistle; German: Ackergänsedistel; French: Laiteron des champs; Spanish: Cardo Leche del Campo, Cardo Ajonjero
Description Perennial weed with runners (stolones) that extend under the topsoil and that are densely covered with buds. S. arvensis produces latex and is a preferred feed for birds, chicken and geese.


Characteristic Features

Extensive underground root system. The leaves of perennial sowthistle are not as deeply lobed as annual sow-thistle. Dark green leaves with purplish margins.


Round or roundly-oval, entire, prostrate, short stalk.


Erect, for the most part simple, branched only at the top, up to 150 cm (59.05 inch) tall.


First ones round-widely oval with finely toothed margin, subsequent leaves lanceolate, pinnatifid, prickly toothed, cordate sessile.

Propagation Organs


Yellow flower head in cyme-like inflorescence. Involucre and peduncles are usually densely covered with glandular hairs.

Flowering Period

Summer - autumn.


Achenes +/- oblong, flattened, 3-4 angled with 2 minutely wrinkled longitudinal ridges between angles, 2.5-3.5 mm (0.098 - 0.14 inch) long excluding pappus, +/- 1 mm (0.039 inch) wide, light to dark brown.


Germination in spring, rarely in summer.
Seed germinating depth up to 3 cm (1.18 inch).

Viability of Seeds

3 to 6 years.


Reproduces by seeds and vegetative shoots from roots.
6,000 - 20,000 seeds/plant, dispersed by wind.



Disturbed sites with damp soils. Seedlings are typically found along pond and river margins, in lawns, moist meadows, and uncultivated fields.


Prefers moist, loamy soil with a flat, impermeable layer.

Additional Crop Information

Present in a wide range of crops.

Agricultural Importance

Plants are highly competitive, persistent, and can rapidly colonize new sites by vegetative reproduction. S. arvensis greatly reduces yield and crop quality and is often found in reduced tillage systems.


Useful non-chemical contribution to Integrated Weed Management

Grazing and repeated cultivation can help to reduce perennial sow thistle stands by depleting root energy reserves. Cultivation is most efficient when emerging shoots have reached the 6-leaf rosette stage.

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