Cat's ear

Image courtesy of Anemone Projectors  CC BY-SA 2.0 license. Originally posted to Flickr.File:Cat's-ear (Hypochaeris radicata).jpg


This plant is native to Europe ans widespread and common in the UK. Because of its dandelion- like flowers it is often dismissed as that plant. 

However, careful observation will reveal many differences to the dandelion. The leaves are formed in an untidy basal rosette that are distinctly  lobed but the lobes are rounded and not jagged teeth like those of the common dandelion. They are also hairy whereas the foliage of the dandelion are not. 

The untidy roseete of leaves of the cat's ear.

Image courtesy of Alan Rockerfella    CC BY-SA 4.0 license.

The flowers

The flowering stem has dark black scale like bracts that resemble the shape of a cat's ear from which the plant takes its common name. They are tiny but quite visible from close observation. At the top of the stem is the solitary flower  which has yellow florets  often tinged green on the under surface.

The flower heads composed of ray florets are 2-3 cm {up to or just over an inch} and may be encountered from June September. They occur in meadows,lawns and other grassy places.  

They are superficially similar  to the Autumn Hawkbit which has deeper lobed leaves.

Cat,s ear growing in a meadow 

Image courtesy of Strobilomyces  CC BY-SA 3.0 license. Hypochaeris radicata20080621w.JPG

Basic components of the cat's ear. Note the the small bracts on the stems which give the plant its common name.

Public domain Wikicommons

Medicinal and culinary uses.

All parts of the Cat's ear plant are edible but it is the leaves and roots that the forager seeks to use in culinary preparations. Although the foliage is bland in taste they are used in salads, steamed or used in stir-fries. For these purposes young leaves are selected older leaves become tough and somewhat fibrous. Like the dandelion the roots can be roasted and used as a substitute for coffee.

Medicinally it is somewhat similar to the dandelion being diuretic. 


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