Primary tabs



Herbs, annual, biennial, or perennial. Stem erect, not or sparsely branched below synflorescence, leafy. Leaves pinnate to undivided. Synflorescence corymbiform or paniculiform, with few to numerous capitula. Capitula with usually 70–300 florets. Involucre campanulate to broadly campanulate, as peduncle often with stipitate glandular hairs and basally ± white tomentose. Phyllaries green, glabrous or glandular hairy; outer phyllaries in several series, gradually longer centripetally, ± imbricate with longest 1/2–3/4 as long as inner ones; inner phyllaries 8–15, ± equal in length, linear-lanceolate to linear. Receptacle naked. Florets yellow. Achene brownish, ovoid to ellipsoid, compressed, narrowed toward both ends, with (4 or)5 main ribs usually accompanied by 2 secondary ribs, smooth or transversely wrinkled. Pappus white, caducous or persistent, of numerous soft fine outer bristles intermixed with some thicker often ± easily caducous inner bristles.

from: Shih C. & Kilian N. in Wu Z. Y. & al. (ed.), Flora of China 20–21: 239–240. 2011, Beijing & St Louis.


The molecular phylogenetic studies by Kim & al. (1996. 1997, 1999a, b, 2004, 2007) consistently revealed that Sonchus in the narrow circumscription as partly maintained, partly established by its monographer (Boulos 1972-74), is highly paraphylectic and that almost a dozen, mostly monospecific segregates or related genera, respectively, are actually more or less deeply nested within Sonchus. These include: (a) Mediterranean endemic Aetheorhiza, (b) the Canary Island endemics Atalanthus (= Taeckholmia), Babcockia, Chrysoprenanthes, Lactucosonchus (= Wildpretia) and Sventenia, (c) the Australian/New Zealandean endemics Actites, Embergia and Kirkianella, and (d) the SE Pacific Island endemics Dendroseris and Thamnoseris.

The Canary Island genera Taeckholmia and Babcockia were already shown by Aldridge (1976a, b) to be indistinguishable from Sonchus on morphological grounds. The other Canary Island genera were at least considered as close relatives of Sonchus. The separate generic status of the Australian/New Zealandean endemic genera was questioned already by Lander (1976) but, although with doubts, finally supported by him. The Mediterranean monospecific Aetherohiza was considered in more detail by Babcock & Stebbins (1943), who concluded its relationship to Sonchus but maintained its independent position.

Not surprising in the light of their remote distribution area, the two SE Pacific Island endemic genera, in contrast, had even not been considered as related to Sonchus for most of their taxonomic history but placed in different subtribes (in the Hieraciinae by Candolle 1838 and in a separate subtribe Dendroseridinae from Bentham 1873 over Stebbins 1953 to Bremer 1994). Jeffrey (1966) was the first to suggest the closer relationship of the two genera with Sonchus. Mejías & Kim (2012) finally included them as a subgenus of their own in Sonchus and provided the corresponding nomenclatural combinations.

The current, redefined genus Sonchus in its wider circumscription comprises c. 95 species distributed in Europe, the Mediterranean area and extending to the mid-Atlantic archipelagos (Canary Isl., Madeira and Cape Verde Isl.), in subtropical and tropical Africa, in temperate and subtropical to tropical Asia extending to Australia/New Zealand, and farther, apparently by long-distant dispersal, to the SE Pacific Juan Fernández and Desventuradas Islands. A few species are widespread to cosmopolitan weeds and ruderal species.

Infrageneric classification is still in work. Three subgenera have been recognised by Boulos (1972-74), these are, besides Sonchus subg. Sonchus, subg. Dendrosonchus for the woody species of the mid-Atlantic archipelagos and subg. Origosonchus for the tropical African species. Mejías & Kim (2012) established a fourth subgenus Dendroseris for the SE Pacific species. The circumscription of the last three subgenera is well supported by the molecular phylogenetic analyses, but subg. Sonchus in its circumscription by Boulos (1972-74) is not monophyletic and a reclassification of this portion of the genus is still needed. The relationships in that portion of the genus as revealed by the molecular analyses lacks, however, sufficient statistical support (see Kim & al. 2007). For the time being, the incomplete classification of the species of Sonchus into subgenera done here reflects this partly unsettled situation.


Aldridge A.E. 1976a: A critical reappraisal of the Macaronesian Sonchus subgenus Dendrosonchus s.l. (Compositae, Lactuceae). – Bot. Macaronésica 2: 25–58.

Aldridge A.E. 1976b: Macaronesian Sonchus subgenus Dendrosonchus s.l. (Compositae, Lactuceae), including a reappraisal of the species concept and new combinations. – Bot. Macaronésica 2: 81–93.

Babcock E. B. & Stebbins G. L. 1943: Systematic studies in the Cichorieae. – Univ. Calif. Publ. Bot. 18: 227–240.

Bentham G. 1873: Compositae. – Pp. 163-533 in: Bentham G. & Hooker J. D., Genera plantarum 2. – London: Reeve.

Boulos L. 1972, 1973, 1974a,b: Révision systématique du genre Sonchus L. s.l. I–VI. – Bot. Not. 125: 287–305, 126: 155–196, 127: 7–37, 402–451.

Bremer K. 1994: Asteraceae. Cladistics and classification. – Portland: Timber.

Candolle, A.P. de 1838: Prodromus systematis naturalis regni vegetabilis 7(1). – Paris: Treuttel & Würtz.

Jeffrey C. 1966: Notes in Compositae I. The Cichorieae in East Tropical Africa. – Kew Bull. 18: 427–486.

Kim S.-C., Crawford D. J., Francisco-Ortega J. & Santos-Guerra A. 1996: A common origin for woody Sonchus and five related genera in the Macaronesian islands: molecular evidence for extensive radiation. – Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. US 93: 7743-7748.

Kim S.-C., Crawford D. J. & Jansen R. K. 1997: Phylogenetic relationships among the genera of the subtribe Sonchinae (Asteraceae): evidence from ITS sequences. – Syst. Bot. 21: 417-432.

Kim S.-C., Crawford D. J., Jansen R. K. & Santos-Guerra A. 1999a: The use of a non-coding region of chloroplast DNA in phylogenetic studies of the subtribe Sonchinae (Asteraceae: Lactuceae). – Pl. Syst. Evol. 215: 85-99.

Kim S.-C., Crawford D. J., Francisco-Ortega J. & Santos-Guerra A. 1999b: Adaptive radiation and genetic differentiation in the woody Sonchus alliance (Asteraceae: Sonchinae) in the Canary Islands. – Pl. Syst. Evol. 215: 101-118.

Kim S.-C., Lu C. T. & Lepschi B. J. 2004: Phylogenetic positions of Actites megalocarpa and Sonchus hydrophilus (Sonchinae: Asteraceae) based on ITS and chloroplast non-coding DNA sequences. – Austral. Syst. Bot. 17: 73–81.

Kim S.-C., Lee C. & Mejías J. A. 2007: Phylogenetic analysis of chloroplast DNA matK gene and ITS of nrDNA sequences reveals polyphyly of the genus Sonchus and new relationships among the subtribe Sonchinae (Asteraceae: Cichorieae). – Molec. Phylogen. Evol. 44: 578–597.

Lander N. S. 1976: Actites, a new genus of Compositae from Australia. – Telopea 1: 129–135.

Mejias J. A. & Kim S.-C. 2012: Taxonomic treatment of Cichorieae (Asteraceae) endemic to the Juan Fernandez and Desventuradas Islands (SE Pacific). – Ann. Bot. Fenn. 49: 171–178.

Stebbins G. L. 1953: A new classification of the tribe Cichorieae, family Compositae. – Madroño 12: 65–81.

Chromosome numbers

Diploids, tetraploids, hexaploids, one species (S. novae-zelandiae) decaploid and dodecaploid; x = 9, 8 (S. bourgeaui only), 7 (S. tenerrimus only) and 15 (S. microcephalus).A,B,C


Africa: Algerianative; Angolanative; Azoresnative; Burkinaintroduced; Cameroonintroduced; Canary Is.native; Cape Provincesnative; Egyptnative; Eritreanative; Ethiopianative; Free Statenative; Gulf of Guinea Is.introduced; Kenyaintroduced; KwaZulu-Natalnative; Libyanative; Madagascarnative; Madeiranative; Mozambiquenative; Namibianative; Nigernative; Nigeriaintroduced; Northern Provincesnative; Selvagensnative; Senegalnative; St.Helenanative; Sudannative; Tanzaniaintroduced; Tunisianative; Ugandaintroduced; Zairenative; Zambianative; Zimbabweintroduced Asia-Temperate: Afghanistannative; Altaynative; Amurnative; Buryatiyanative; China North-Centralnative; China South-Centralnative; China Southeastnative; Chitanative; Cyprusnative; East Aegean Is.native; Hainannative; Inner Mongolianative; Irannative; Iraqnative; Irkutsknative; Japannative; Kamchatkanative; Kazakhstannative; Khabarovsknative; Kirgizistannative; Koreanative; Krasnoyarsknative; Kuril Is.native; Lebanon-Syrianative; Magadannative; Manchurianative; Mongolianative; North Caucasusnative; Ogasawara-shotointroduced; Palestinenative; Primoryenative; Qinghainative; Sakhalinnative; Saudi Arabianative; Sinainative; Tadzhikistannative; Taiwannative; Tibetnative; Transcaucasusnative; Turkeynative; Turkmenistannative; Tuvanative; Uzbekistannative; West Siberianative; Xinjiangnative; Yakutskiyanative Asia-Tropical: Assamnative; Bangladeshnative; Borneointroduced; East Himalayanative; Indianative; Jawanative; Laosnative; Malayanative; Myanmarnative; Nepalnative; New Guineaintroduced; Pakistannative; Philippinesnative; Sri Lankanative; Sumateranative; Thailandnative; Vietnamnative; West Himalayanative Australasia: Antipodean Is.introduced; Chatham Is.native; Kermadec Is.introduced; New South Walesnative; New Zealand Northnative; New Zealand Southnative; Northern Territoryintroduced; Queenslandnative; South Australianative; Tasmanianative; Victorianative; Western Australianative Europe: Albanianative; Austrianative; Balearesnative; Baltic Statesnative; Belarusnative; Belgiumnative; Bulgarianative; Central European Russianative; Corsenative; Czechoslovakianative; Denmarknative; East European Russianative; Finlandnative; Francenative; Føroyarnative; Germanynative; Great Britainnative; Greecenative; Hungarynative; Irelandnative; Kritinative; Krymnative; Netherlandsnative; North European Russianative; Northwest European Russianative; Norwaynative; Polandnative; Portugalnative; Romanianative; Sardegnanative; Sicilynative; South European Russianative; Spainnative; Swedennative; Switzerlandnative; Turkey-in-Europenative; Ukrainenative; Yugoslavianative Northern America: Alabamaintroduced; Alaskaintroduced; Albertaintroduced; Arizonaintroduced; Arkansasintroduced; British Columbiaintroduced; Californiaintroduced; Coloradointroduced; Connecticutintroduced; Delawareintroduced; District of Columbiaintroduced; Floridaintroduced; Georgia, U.S.A.introduced; Greenlandintroduced; Idahointroduced; Illinoisintroduced; Indianaintroduced; Iowaintroduced; Kansasintroduced; Kentuckyintroduced; Labradorintroduced; Louisianaintroduced; Maineintroduced; Manitobaintroduced; Marylandintroduced; Massachusettsintroduced; Mexican Pacific Is.introduced; Mexico Centralintroduced; Mexico Gulfintroduced; Mexico Northeastintroduced; Mexico Northwestintroduced; Mexico Southeastintroduced; Mexico Southwestintroduced; Michiganintroduced; Minnesotaintroduced; Mississippiintroduced; Missouriintroduced; Montanaintroduced; Nebraskaintroduced; Nevadaintroduced; New Brunswickintroduced; New Hampshireintroduced; New Jerseyintroduced; New Mexicointroduced; New Yorkintroduced; Newfoundlandintroduced; North Carolinaintroduced; North Dakotaintroduced; Northwest Territoriesintroduced; Nova Scotiaintroduced; Nunavutintroduced; Ohiointroduced; Oklahomaintroduced; Ontariointroduced; Oregonintroduced; Pennsylvaniaintroduced; Prince Edward I.introduced; Québecintroduced; Rhode I.introduced; Saskatchewanintroduced; South Carolinaintroduced; South Dakotaintroduced; Tennesseeintroduced; Texasintroduced; Utahintroduced; Vermontintroduced; Virginiaintroduced; Washingtonintroduced; West Virginiaintroduced; Wisconsinintroduced; Wyomingintroduced; Yukonintroduced Pacific: Fijiintroduced; Hawaiiintroduced; New Caledoniaintroduced Southern America: Argentina Northeastintroduced; Argentina Northwestintroduced; Argentina Southintroduced; Bahamasintroduced; Boliviaintroduced; Brazil Northeastintroduced; Brazil Southintroduced; Brazil Southeastintroduced; Chile Centralintroduced; Chile Northintroduced; Chile Southintroduced; Cubaintroduced; Desventurados Is.introduced; Dominican Republicintroduced; Guatemalaintroduced; Haitiintroduced; Jamaicaintroduced; Juan Fernández Is.introduced; Leeward Is.introduced; Panamáintroduced; Paraguayintroduced; Puerto Ricointroduced; Trinidad-Tobagointroduced; Turks-Caicos Is.introduced; Uruguayintroduced; Venezuelaintroduced; Venezuelan Antillesintroduced; Windward Is.introduced

Common names

Albanian (Albania): EteoricaD,1, RrëshyellE,1; Arabic (Lebanon): أَثـْيوريزَةF,1, تِفافG,1; Arabic (Syria): تِفافH,1; Armenian (Armenia): ԻշամառոլI,1, ԿաթնբեկI,1; Bulgarian (Bulgaria): КострецJ,1; Chinese (China): 苦苣菜属 ku ju cai shuK; English (Great Britain): Sow-thistleL,1; Estonian (Estonia): PiimohakasM,2; French (Corse): LaiteronN,1; German (Germany): GänsedistelO,1; Hebrew (Israel): מָרוֹרP,1, מרורP,1, נִיסָנִיתQ,1, ניסניתQ,1; Italian (Italy): GrespinoR,1, RadicchiellaS,1; Latvian (Latvia): MīkstpieneM,1; Makhuwa (Mozambique): liwangutoT; Polish (Poland): MleczU,1; Romanian (Moldova): СусайV,1; Russian (Armenia): ОсотI,1; Shona (Mozambique): mikakaT; Swedish (Sweden): MolkarW,1; Tamashek (Niger): awushânan, târmumm; Tsonga (Mozambique): hlaviT, inhlaviT; Turkish (Turkey): EşekgevreğıX; Vietnamese (Vietnam): Nhũ cúcY
1. recommended, 2. unassessed


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