Cat’s-ear – Hypochaeris radicata

Hypochaeris radicata L.

Plant height 20-60 cm. Flowerhead width 2-3 cm.

It’s scientific name is derived from Hypochaeris from Greek meaning ‘under’ and ‘young pig’, and radicata from Latin meaning ‘with conspicuous roots’. Pigs like to forage for the taproots. It is also called Common Cat’s-ear and False Dandelion, amongst others.

Cat’s-ear is an important pollinator which attracts many insects. It is by far the commonest Cat’s-ear and can be abundant in grassy places. The bright yellow solitary flower is quite similar to other hawkweed and hawkbit species so care must be taken in identification. The broad leaves have rounded lobes and are very hairy, and form an untidey rosette around the base of this perennial plant. The long stems on which the flower sits are usually leafless and have tiny, scale-like dark-tipped bracts resembling small cat’s ears, which is where the plant gets its vernacular name from. The stems can also branch. The outer ray florets are tinged green beneath the flowerhead.

A native species, it flowers from May to September, and is found in many habitats, including meadows, on roadside verges, railway embankments, and in garden lawns. Common and widespread throughout Britain.