Weed of the Week #3 – Annual Sowthistle (Sonchus oleraceus: Asteraceae)
Annual Sowthistle is an introduced annual that can be found in many different habitats throughout New York City. It can be identified by its leaves which have prickly margins and are arranged alternately on the flowering the stem. The flowers, which are numerous, look similar to a dandelion: many-petalled yellow flowers followed by a poofball of seeds ready to be dispersed by the wind. Annual Sowthistle was introduced from Europe where it was sometimes used as in early spring salads (its species name oleraceus means of the vegetable garden). Rabbits are also known to love this edible plant which is why its sometimes called Hare’s thistle in the Old World. Although it is edible and has nice flowers, it spreads rapidly by seed and its overwintering rosettes can serve as a host to viruses. So, if you see this little guy rip him out and plant something native in his place.
Where It’s From: introduced from Europe
Where It’s Found: it is common in neglected urban sites such as: public parks, cracks in parking lots, and vacant lots
Where To Find It: besides the areas listed above I have seen it in tree pits as recently as last week, and I found it popping out of a crack in my porch last spring.