Catsear (Hypochaeris radicata)
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Catsear (Hypochaeris radicata), also known as cat’s ear or false dandelion, is a perennial, low-lying edible herb often found in lawns. The plant is native to Europe, but has also been introduced to the Americas, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
The leaves, which may grow up to eight inches, are lobed and covered in fine hairs, forming a low-lying rosette around a central taproot. Multiple forked stems carry bright yellow flower heads, and when mature these form seeds attached to windborne “parachutes”. All parts of the plant exude a milky sap when cut.
Hypochaeris species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including The Shark.
Catsear is derived from the words cat’s ear, and refers to the shape and fine-hair on the leaves resembling that of the ear of a cat.
The plant is also known as false dandelion, as it is commonly mistaken for true dandelions. Both plants carry similar flowers which form into windborne seeds. However, catsear flowering stems are forked and solid, whereas dandelions possess unforked stems that are hollow. Both plants have a rosette of leaves and a central taproot. The leaves of dandelions are jagged in appearance, whereas those of catsear are more lobe-shaped and hairy. Both plants have similar uses.