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Perennial Sowthistle

Common Name: Perennial Sowthistle.

Scientific Name: Sonchus Arvensis.

What to look for?  Look for a really tall dandelion!  And, yes, this is an invasive weed. The tall stems are dull green. The alternate leaves are long and narrow and become smaller and fewer as they ascend the stem. The upper stem terminates in long, leafy flower stalks of composite flowers. Each composite flower consists of numerous yellow ray florets. The base of the flower is covered with overlapping green bracts. There is a pleasant floral scent. Each ray floret is replaced by a rather flat achene or fruit that – like dandelions - tufts of fine white hairs and are distributed by the wind. The root system consists of a stout taproot that can run deep into the ground, and it produces long spreading rhizomes. This plant frequently forms clonal colonies.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? There are Perennial Sowthistles scattered around our pathways and lowlands as well as the restored prairie at Stonegate Park.

How big are they? The Perennial Sowthistle may grow to four (4) feet tall. The oblong leaves are approximately one foot long and three (3) inch across. The flowers are one (1) to two (2) inches across.

Where do they grow and thrive? Introduced from Eurasia, the Perennial Sowthistle is common only in northern Illinois. Across the U.S., it is found in the northern portion of the country and in Canada. Preferring disturbed areas, the Perennial Sowthistle is found in croplands, meadows, sloughs, areas along roads, and miscellaneous waste areas.

When do they bloom? The blooming period is lasts for several months during the summer. Perennial Sowthistle propagates from re-seeding and from its root system which consists of long, spreading rhizomes.

Do birds, insects or other wildlife associate with this plant? The nectar and pollen of the flowerheads of the Perennial Sowthistle attract a variety of bees, flies, skippers, and beetles. White-tailed Deer browse on the foliage and mature flowerheads.

Interesting Facts About the Perennial Sowthistle:

  • Perennial Sowthistle is an invasive plant that is problematic throughout North America.

  • Perennial Sowthistle is part of the Sunflower family (Asteraceae) and other common names, include creeping sowthistle, field sow-thistle, field sowthistle, moist sowthistle.

  • The genus Sonchus, is the old Greek name for 'hollow' and was applied due to the hollow stem of the Sow Thistle and

  • The species arvensis, means 'of planted fields' and accounts for the common name.

For more information on the Perennial Sowthistle and sources of information used in this blog (these are several of the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit Illinois Wildflowers, Minnesota Wildflowers, and Friends of the Wildflower Garden.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, insects and plants. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.


Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!

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