BASF Agricultural Solutions UK

Perennial sow-thistle

(Sonchus arvensis)

Young Plant

The almost stalk less cotyledons are oval. The first true leaves arise singly and are a pointed oval and smooth surfaced with prickly edges. The leaf narrows gradually into the stalk. Later leaves have spiny teeth.

Mature Plant

The mature plant grows from a leafy rosette, with the lower leaves stalked, but the upper stem leaves growing straight from the stem. Leaves are shiny and green, lobed in spiny segments perpendicular to the stem and ending in a narrow finger -shaped terminal lobe. The stems are unbranched except where they branch into the flowerheads at the top. Most of the rhizomes are in the top 30cm soil but there is also a long tap root.


The flower buds bear tiny yellow glandular hairs. The yellow flowerhead is 40-50mm across and contains 160 or more individual fertile flowers. The flowerheads are arranged in umbrella like groups.
Height 150cm

Perennial sow-thistle Profile

Key feature- Leaves are shiny and lobed
- Tiny yellow glandular hairs on the flowering shoot and flowerheads.
- Rhizomes
- Plants overwinter as thickened roots
- Larger flowers than the annual species which are deeper yellow
Number of seeds produced per plant5,000 per plant but also spread by plants originating from thickened roots
Seed shedJuly-October
Germination periodMarch-May
Shoots appear from overwintered roots in March/April
Germination depthSeed 5cm.
Rhizomes present up to 3m deep. Emerge from 10cm
Primary dormancyLow
Does it have a secondary dormancy?Yes
Seed longevity>5 years
Factor promoting germinationLight
Rate of seed decline with cultivationsHigh but thickened roots do survive
LifecycleSeeds are dispersed by wind and germinate in spring, requiring chilling through the winter. Perennial sowthistle can also spread from fragments of rhizomes.
Geographical LocationMainly confined to England and the coastal areas of Wales, Scotland and Ireland, perennial sow-thistle is usually found on roadsides and verges and arable field edges.
Soil TypeIt prefers damp to wet, heavy deep loams and clays, high in nitrates and humus
ImpactUsually present in field margins may encroach into arable fields, but most often is a nuisance in perennial crops. It occurs in patches on arable land.
5% yield loss from 167 plants per m2
Resistance riskNo resistance populations known
Spray application

Spray application

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