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Alpine Blue Sow-thistle

Cicerbita alpina

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Asteraceae (Daisy)
Also in this family:
Alpine Cotula, Alpine Fleabane, Alpine Saw-wort, Annual Ragweed, Annual Sunflower, Argentine Fleabane, Autumn Hawkbit, Autumn Oxeye, Beaked Hawksbeard, Beggarticks, Bilbao Fleabane, Black Knapweed, Black-eyed Susan, Blanketflower, Blue Fleabane, Blue Globe-thistle, Bristly Oxtongue, Broad-leaved Cudweed, Broad-leaved Ragwort, Brown Knapweed, Butterbur, Buttonweed, Cabbage Thistle, Canadian Fleabane, Canadian Goldenrod, Carline Thistle, Chalk Knapweed, Chamois Ragwort, Changing Michaelmas Daisy, Chicory, Chinese Mugwort, Chinese Ragwort, Coltsfoot, Common Blue Sow-thistle, Common Cat's-ear, Common Cudweed, Common Daisy, Common Dandelion, Common Fleabane, Common Goldenrod, Common Groundsel, Common Michaelmas Daisy, Common Mugwort, Common Ragwort, Common Wormwood, Coneflower, Confused Michaelmas Daisy, Corn Chamomile, Corn Marigold, Cornflower, Cotton Thistle, Cottonweed, Creeping Thistle, Daisy Bush, Dwarf Cudweed, Dwarf Thistle, Early Goldenrod, Eastern Groundsel, Eastern Leopardsbane, Elecampane, English Hawkweed, Fen Ragwort, Feverfew, Field Fleawort, Field Wormwood, Fox and Cubs, French Tarragon, Gallant Soldier, Garden Lettuce, Giant Butterbur, Glabrous-headed Hawkweed, Glandular Globe-thistle, Glaucous Michaelmas Daisy, Globe Artichoke, Globe-thistle, Goat's Beard, Golden Ragwort, Golden Samphire, Goldilocks Aster, Grass-leaved Goldenrod, Great Lettuce, Greater Burdock, Greater Knapweed, Grey-headed Hawkweed, Guernsey Fleabane, Hairless Blue Sow-thistle, Hairless Leptinella, Hairy Michaelmas Daisy, Harpur Crewe's Leopardsbane, Hawkweed Oxtongue, Heath Cudweed, Heath Groundsel, Hemp Agrimony, Highland Cudweed, Hoary Mugwort, Hoary Ragwort, Hybrid Knapweed, Intermediate Burdock, Irish Fleabane, Jersey Cudweed, Jerusalem Artichoke, Lance-leaved Hawkweed, Lavender-cotton, Leafless Hawksbeard, Least Lettuce, Leopardplant, Leopardsbane, Leptinella, Lesser Burdock, Lesser Hawkbit, Lesser Sunflower, London Bur-marigold, Magellan Ragwort, Marsh Cudweed, Marsh Hawksbeard, Marsh Ragwort, Marsh Sow-thistle, Marsh Thistle, Meadow Thistle, Melancholy Thistle, Mexican Fleabane, Milk Thistle, Mountain Everlasting, Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Musk Thistle, Narrow-leaved Cudweed, Narrow-leaved Hawkweed, Narrow-leaved Michaelmas Daisy, Narrow-leaved Ragwort, New England Hawkweed, New Zealand Holly, Nipplewort, Nodding Bur-marigold, Northern Hawksbeard, Norwegian Mugwort, Oxeye Daisy, Oxford Ragwort, Pearly Everlasting, Perennial Cornflower, Perennial Ragweed, Perennial Sow-thistle, Perennial Sunflower, Pineapple Mayweed, Plantain-leaved Leopardsbane, Ploughman's Spikenard, Plymouth Thistle, Pontic Blue Sow-thistle, Pot Marigold, Prickly Lettuce, Prickly Sow-thistle, Purple Coltsfoot, Rayed Tansy, Red Star Thistle, Red-seeded Dandelion, Red-tipped Cudweed, Robin's Plantain, Roman Chamomile, Rough Cocklebur, Rough Hawkbit, Rough Hawksbeard, Russian Lettuce, Safflower, Salsify, Saw-wort, Scented Mayweed, Scentless Mayweed, Sea Aster, Sea Mayweed, Sea Wormwood, Seaside Daisy, Shaggy Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Shaggy Soldier, Shasta Daisy, Shetland Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Shrub Ragwort, Sicilian Chamomile, Silver Ragwort, Slender Mugwort, Slender Thistle, Small Cudweed, Small Fleabane, Smooth Cat's-ear, Smooth Hawksbeard, Smooth Sow-thistle, Sneezeweed, Sneezewort, Spear Thistle, Spotted Cat's-ear, Spotted Hawkweed, Sticky Groundsel, Stinking Chamomile, Stinking Hawksbeard, Tall Fleabane, Tall Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Tansy, Thin-leaved Sunflower, Trifid Bur-marigold, Tuberous Thistle, Tyneside Leopardplant, Viper's Grass, Wall Lettuce, Welsh Groundsel, Welted Thistle, White Butterbur, White Buttons, Willdenow's Leopardsbane, Winter Heliotrope, Wood Burdock, Wood Ragwort, Woody Fleabane, Woolly Thistle, Yarrow, Yellow Chamomile, Yellow Fox and Cubs, Yellow Oxeye, Yellow Star Thistle, Yellow Thistle, York Groundsel
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
1 metre tall
Meadows, mountains, riverbanks, roadsides, rocky places, swamps.

Blue, many petals
Pale blue dandelion-like flowers, about 2cm in diameter. The tips of the many petals are 5-toothed. 5 stamens. Pollinated by bees, butterflies and moths.
The fruit is a pappus which is a seed surrounded by a ring of feathery hairs. Parachute-like in appearance. The seeds ripen from August to October.
The broadly triangular leaves are pinnate with the end leaflet being the largest. Bluish-grey underneath the leaves. The margins of the leaves are toothed. Basal leaves are stalked and stem leaves are stalkless. The leaves are alternate along the rough, hairy stems. Perennial.
Other Names:
Alpine Sow-thistle, Blue Sow-thistle, Mountain Blue Sowthistle.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Cicerbita alpina, also known as "alpine blue sowthistle" or "mountain blue sowthistle," is a perennial herb that is native to Europe, Asia, and North America. It is a hardy plant that can grow in a variety of soil types, and can tolerate cold, dry, and acidic conditions. It is found in alpine and arctic regions, tundra, meadows, and along roadsides. The plant has large leaves and blue or purple flowers that can reach up to 4 feet tall. The leaves and flowers are edible, but they are not commonly used as food. It has been used in traditional medicine to treat various ailments such as skin irritations and infections. It is also known as a host plant for several species of butterflies and moths.


The Alpine Blue Sow-thistle, scientifically known as Cicerbita alpina, is a stunning perennial plant native to the mountainous regions of Europe and Asia. This beautiful plant is a member of the Asteraceae family, which also includes daisies and sunflowers.

The Alpine Blue Sow-thistle is a tall plant that can grow up to 1 meter in height. It has a sturdy stem that is covered with hairs and produces numerous branches with large leaves that can grow up to 30 centimeters long. The leaves of this plant are green and slightly wrinkled, and have a unique blue tint to them, especially on their undersides. The flowers of the Alpine Blue Sow-thistle are a sight to behold, with their striking blue-violet petals and yellow centers. The flowers bloom in the summer and are arranged in a dense cluster at the top of the stem.

The Alpine Blue Sow-thistle is a hardy plant that thrives in alpine and subalpine habitats, and is commonly found in rocky areas and mountain meadows. It prefers moist, well-drained soil and full sun exposure. The plant is also known to be frost-resistant, making it an ideal addition to gardens in colder regions.

Apart from its visual appeal, the Alpine Blue Sow-thistle also has a rich history of medicinal and culinary uses. Its leaves have been used to make tea, which is believed to have a calming effect and can aid digestion. The roots of the plant have also been used as a substitute for coffee, and the plant is rich in nutrients like iron and vitamin C. In traditional medicine, the Alpine Blue Sow-thistle has been used to treat ailments like liver problems, kidney diseases, and arthritis.

However, it is important to note that the Alpine Blue Sow-thistle can be toxic in large quantities and should not be consumed without proper preparation or guidance from a qualified expert.

The Alpine Blue Sow-thistle is a beautiful plant that adds a splash of color to any garden or natural habitat. Its unique blue tinted leaves and striking blue-violet flowers make it a standout amongst other wildflowers. While it has a long history of medicinal and culinary uses, it should be approached with caution and care. If you have the chance to see this stunning plant in its natural habitat, take a moment to appreciate its beauty and resilience in the face of challenging alpine conditions.

The Alpine Blue Sow-thistle is not only visually appealing, but it also plays an important ecological role. The plant serves as a source of food for a variety of insects, such as bees and butterflies, and its seeds provide nourishment for birds and small mammals. Additionally, the plant's deep roots help stabilize soil and prevent erosion in the often-rocky alpine environment.

The Alpine Blue Sow-thistle has also been used for decorative and ornamental purposes. It can be grown in gardens and rockeries, adding a unique and striking touch to any landscape. It pairs well with other alpine plants and can be used to create a beautiful mountain garden or a rock garden.

Unfortunately, like many wildflowers, the Alpine Blue Sow-thistle is facing threats due to habitat loss, overgrazing, and other human activities. It is important to protect and preserve the plant's natural habitat to ensure its continued existence and to support the biodiversity of the alpine ecosystems.

The Alpine Blue Sow-thistle is a remarkable plant with many unique features and benefits. Its striking blue-violet flowers, blue-tinted leaves, and hardiness make it a remarkable wildflower, with a rich history of culinary and medicinal uses. Its ecological importance and ornamental value further add to its significance. By appreciating and protecting this plant, we can help preserve the natural beauty and ecological diversity of the alpine regions.

In addition to its culinary and medicinal uses, the Alpine Blue Sow-thistle has also been used in folklore and mythology. In some cultures, it is believed that the plant has magical properties and is associated with good luck and prosperity. For example, in Switzerland, it is said that carrying a sprig of the Alpine Blue Sow-thistle in one's pocket will bring good fortune.

The plant has also been used in traditional medicine to treat ailments such as fever, coughs, and skin irritations. The leaves and flowers are boiled to make a tea, which is believed to have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Additionally, the plant's roots have been used to make a poultice to relieve joint pain and swelling.

While the Alpine Blue Sow-thistle is not commonly found in the United States, it is sometimes grown in botanical gardens and is considered a rare and prized addition to any collection. Its striking blue coloration and adaptability make it a unique and desirable plant for gardeners and plant enthusiasts.

Overall, the Alpine Blue Sow-thistle is a fascinating and beautiful plant with a rich history and a variety of uses. Whether you appreciate it for its ornamental value, medicinal properties, or ecological importance, this remarkable wildflower is a testament to the resilience and diversity of our planet's natural ecosystems.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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