Sonchus acaulis flowers

Sonchus Acaulis and Congestus Grow Only in the Canary Islands

On my way to finding Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) for photos in Tenerife North, I stumbled upon this absolutely stunning plant which, if you notice, is very similar:

Isn’t it beautiful! Tenerife North is right now full of them, they’ve bloomed in mid January giving our winter days (not so cold here, just letting you know, around 20 C, not bad) a wonderful touch of golden colour all around.

Much like dandelions, these plants find their way easily and grow almost anywhere where the weather conditions are good for them. Along the roads, highways, up in the forest areas, etc. They can grow to quite spectacular sizes and the flowers look just absolutely glorious.

Their captivating shape and colour made me feel I was in the middle of the movie The Wizard of Oz (1939 version – see here). Not sure if you agree, but the energy was very similar to the fake (and wonderful) decor the movie displays when within Oz.

About Sonchus Acaulis

According to Wikipedia Sonchus acaulis “is a plant species in the dandelion tribe within the daisy family. It is found only on the Canary Islands of Gran Canaria and Tenerife.”

Known as ‘Cerraja canaria’ o ‘Cerrajón de monte’, the plant belongs to the group of shrubs and has very short woody stems. The leaves show acute foliar lobes which display as large rosettes, sometimes going up to 1m in diameter.

Acualis: comes from the greek ‘akaulos‘ which means ‘without stem’. It can reach a height of 60cm, 1.20m in bloom. It can be woody at the base, the leaves grow in rosette and are elongated, lobed with dented edges as well as a pointed apex. The colour of the leaves is of an intense green. The leaves are long and lobulated, with dented edges.

In terms of medicinal properties this plant has traditionally been used as a digestive, diuretic and depurative. The leaves have also been used as poultice to heal infected wounds (source).

A beautiful video on the ‘Cerraja canaria’ o ‘Cerrajón de monte’

Sonchus Congestus: the Giant Dandelion

Sonchus congestus is also really similar to dandelion. Also called ‘Cerraja’ o ‘Lechugón’ (‘big lettuce, we can see why below), this plant is also endemic to the Canary Islands.

Here’s what Wikipedia says about Sonchus congestus: “Sonchus congestus is a shrub up to 1 m (3.3 ft) tall. The leaves form a rosette at the ends of the stems. The leaves are relatively smooth (subglabrous), and have triangular to rounded lobes along their length. The flower heads are large, up to 4–5 cm (1.6–2.0 in) acrross.” (Source).

I love finding these!

At the time of taking the photos Sonchus acaulis was in full bloom while Sonchus congestus (the giant dandelion) wasn’t. I’m sure it won’t be long til I see those beautiful golden flowers, being warm here we live in a spring-summer type of weather the whole year around.

If you think they both look quite similar, look at the difference with the leaves below (first photo is Sonchus congestus while the one below is Sonchus acaulis):

Sonchus congestus (round dentation on leaf)
Sonchus acauli (acute dentation on leaf)

I’ve noticed that Sonchus acaulis (dented leaf) sems to grow in ‘wetter’ areas (La Esperanza, La Laguna) while Sonchus congestus (rounder dentation on leaf) seems to grow more along the coastal area, but I could be wrong (this is what I’ve noticed). Also while Sonchus acaulis is in full bloom across all of Tenerife North, Sonchus congestus is not.

Learning About Endemic Species

As I learn more about herbs, plants in general and herbal remedies I also learn about what grows around me. This is very important because I believe everyone should make the most of what they have around them as, at the end of the day, we’re also ‘moving’ plants and there’s no separation between them and us.


Resources

Some of the below are mostly Spanish sites but you can use Google Translate if you’re interested in their content or translate the page if given the opportunity by your browser.

Riomoros.com on Sonchus acaulis
Flora de Canarias on Sonchus acaulis
Wikipedia on Sonchus acaulis
Gobierno de Canarias on Sonchus congestus (Canary Island Government Page)
Flora de Canarias on Sonchus congestus
Wikipedia on Sonchus congestus
– Best Dandelion Root Tea Bags (I recommend a raw version and a roasted version)
– Dandelion Benefits, Uses & Properties

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