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Common Blue Sow-thistle

Cicerbita macrophylla

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Asteraceae (Daisy)
Also in this family:
Alpine Blue Sow-thistle, 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 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:
150 centimetres tall
Ditches, gardens, grassland, meadows, parks, riverbanks, roadsides, wasteland.

Blue, many petals
Lilac ray florets, 5 stamens. Similar-looking to Chicory, hence the genus Cicerbita means 'Chicory-like'.
A narrow, elliptical achene (type of seed). Hairless, winged and topped by a pappus of hairs.
Pale green leaves. The basal leaves are long-stalked and finely serrated with rounded terminal lobes. The stem leaves clasp the stems so are not stalked. The leaves are arranged alternately along the stems.
Other Names:
Blue Sow-thistle, Large-leaved Sowthistle.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Cicerbita macrophylla, also known as "blue sowthistle" or "large-leaved sowthistle," is a perennial herb that is native to Europe and Asia. It is a hardy plant that can grow in a variety of soil types and can tolerate shade and dry conditions. It can be found in grasslands, 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's also considered as a weed in some regions, and it can be difficult to control as it reproduces both by seed and underground rhizomes. It has been used in traditional medicine to treat various ailments such as skin irritations and infections.


The Common Blue Sow-thistle, also known as Cicerbita macrophylla, is a beautiful and interesting plant that can be found in many parts of Europe, Asia, and North America. It is a member of the Asteraceae family, which includes many other well-known plants such as daisies, sunflowers, and asters.

The Common Blue Sow-thistle is a perennial plant that can grow up to 1.5 meters in height. It has large, blue or purple flowers that are arranged in clusters at the top of its stem. The leaves of the plant are also quite large and can be up to 30 centimeters long. They are deeply lobed and have a distinctive, toothed edge.

One of the interesting things about the Common Blue Sow-thistle is that it is a food source for many different animals. In particular, the leaves of the plant are a favorite food of some species of caterpillar. The plant is also known to attract a wide variety of pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and other insects.

In terms of its traditional medicinal uses, the Common Blue Sow-thistle has been used in a variety of ways over the years. For example, some people have used the plant to treat fevers, while others have used it to alleviate symptoms of arthritis or other inflammatory conditions. The plant has also been used as a diuretic and as a laxative.

Although the Common Blue Sow-thistle is generally considered to be a harmless plant, it is worth noting that it can cause a mild skin irritation in some people. If you plan to handle the plant or work with it in any way, it is a good idea to wear gloves and long sleeves to protect your skin.

The Common Blue Sow-thistle is a fascinating plant that is well worth learning more about. Whether you are interested in its traditional medicinal uses, its role in the ecosystem, or simply its beauty, there is no shortage of interesting information to discover about this remarkable plant.

In addition to its traditional medicinal uses and its importance as a food source for animals, the Common Blue Sow-thistle is also used in modern herbal medicine. It is believed to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and is often used as a natural remedy for conditions such as arthritis, gout, and other inflammatory disorders.

In some cultures, the plant is also used as a culinary ingredient. The leaves of the plant can be used as a salad green or cooked like spinach, while the root can be boiled and eaten as a vegetable.

Interestingly, the Common Blue Sow-thistle is also believed to have some cultural significance. In some parts of Europe, the plant has been associated with legends and folklore. For example, in Germany, it is said that the plant was once used as a love charm. According to the legend, a young woman could win the heart of the man she loved by secretly placing a Common Blue Sow-thistle flower in his pocket.

In terms of cultivation, the Common Blue Sow-thistle is a hardy plant that can grow in a wide range of soils and conditions. It prefers moist, well-drained soil and partial shade, but can tolerate full sun in some locations. It is also a great plant for attracting pollinators to your garden.

The Common Blue Sow-thistle is a fascinating plant with a rich history and many interesting uses. Whether you are interested in its traditional medicinal properties, its role in the ecosystem, or simply its beauty, there is no shortage of reasons to appreciate this remarkable plant.

The Common Blue Sow-thistle is also known by other common names, including Large-leaved Sow-thistle, Greater Blue Sow-thistle, and Blue Sowthistle. Its scientific name, Cicerbita macrophylla, comes from the Latin words "cicer," which means chickpea, and "bita," which means bitten or nibbled. This name may refer to the shape of the leaves, which have a somewhat triangular shape that resembles a chickpea.

Another interesting aspect of the Common Blue Sow-thistle is its role in traditional agriculture. In some cultures, the plant has been used as a natural fertilizer or as a cover crop to help protect soil and promote healthy plant growth. In parts of Europe, the plant has also been used as a food source for livestock.

While the Common Blue Sow-thistle is generally considered to be a beneficial plant, it can sometimes be considered a weed in certain contexts. For example, it may be considered invasive in some regions where it is not native, and it can spread rapidly if not managed properly. In such cases, it may be necessary to control the plant's growth to prevent it from overwhelming other native species.

In conclusion, the Common Blue Sow-thistle is a fascinating plant with many interesting uses and properties. Whether you are interested in its traditional medicinal uses, its role in agriculture and horticulture, or its significance in folklore and culture, there is no doubt that this plant is well worth learning more about.


Common Blue Sow-thistle filmed all around Silverdale, Lancashire on the 18th June 2023.


Music credits
Canon in D Major by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.

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Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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