Spiny sowthistle

Prepared by Jennifer L. D’Appollonio, Assistant Scientist, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469. Updated February 2018.

Scientific name: Sonchus asper (L.) Hill

Common name(s): spiny sowthistle, spiny-leaved sowthistle, prickly sow thistle, sharp-fringed sow thistle

Link(s): USDA PLANTS Profile, Go Botany

Images: (to see enlargements [PC]: click on image, then right click and choose “view image”)


– annual

– the spines may cause redness, burning, and/or itching rashes

-leaves are

  • simple
  • alternate

– milky sap

– the leaves usually have rounded lobes that clasp the stem

– may be confused with S. arvensis, which has a rhizome, or S. oleraceus, which has triangular leaf lobes; see left sidebar of Go Botany webpage


-disturbed sites

-meadows and fields


-eaten by livestock

Natural History:

-native to Eurasia

-the young leaves are edible



Go Botany. “Sonchus Asper (L.) Hill.” Sonchus Asper (Spiny-Leaved Sow-Thistle): Go Botany, 2021, gobotany.nativeplanttrust.org/species/sonchus/asper/.