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Chicory – Roadside Plant in Country and City

Chicory – Cichorium intybus

I remember chicory as a common flower of vacant lots and streetside  hellstrips of my urban childhood. It seems odd to me that I see it so rarely now that I live in the country where my town  has lots of dirt roads, and where even the paved roads are edged by sandy soil and woodlands or fields.

I’ve always loved the  blue flowers of chicory, and I did know that the roots were sometimes dried and ground and used as a coffee substitute.  I didn’t know that root chicory was Cichorium intybus var. sativum. Of course, chicory leaves are also edible, but are not to be confused with the salad green sold as chicory but which is really witlof or Belgian endive. Neither is it what the Italians call radicchio

I was delighted to find this little clump of chicory with its beautiful blue flowers blooming in the parking lot where I left my car yesterday afternoon. This is my childhood memory of a tough, beautiful flower blooming in a less  than beautiful spot. This is a flower that could catch a young child’s imagination, blooming where no flower could be expected.

To hear stories of more wildflowers click here.  Thank you Gail, for hosting Wildflower Wednesday.


Fall Dandelion – Leontodon autumnalis

Fall Dandelion

The fall dandelion is making a great show this year, especially at the edges of the lawn where it meets the gravelly driveway. I don’t ever remember quite so many in bloom.

The fall dandelion is not really a dandelion at all, although the strong similarity explains the name. The fall dandelion is properly known as Leontodon autumnalis, while the common dandelion is Taraxacum officinale. The difference is that the fall dandelion has more narrowly cut leaves with lobes that can point forward or backward. The stem is wiry and does not have the milky juice. Neither of  these is native to North America.

Fall dandelion closeup

Fall or spring, these flowers have a connection to the king of beasts. There is the spring dandeLION and the fall LEOntodon.  In both cases the reference is to those nasty teeth of the lion.


Weeds or Wildflowers?

Daisies, buttercups, hawkweed, lady's bedstraw

Weeds or wildflowers? What do you think?

For more wordlessness this Wednesday click here.

Another Dandelion?

Fall Dandelion - Leontodon autumnalis

This blog is named for the common weed, dandelion or Taraxacum officinale. In the spring my lawn is covered with dandelions. I have learned not to use the lawn clippings from that season  as mulch because I put dandelions in my perennial beds.  Sometimes I don’t even put those clippings with lots of dandelions gone to see in the compost. I am not sure my compost pile gets hot enough to kill those seeds.

Now my lawn is dotted with a smaller yellow flower.  I had been thinking this was hawkweed, but when I actually checked with my Peterson’s Guide to Wildflowers, I realized that this yellow flower is another dandelion, the fall dandelion, sometimes called false dandelion, but it is in another family. Its proper name is Leontodon autumnalis.

Like the familiar spring dandelion, the fall dandelion has a rosette of toothed leaves, but they are very narrow. The name Leontodon refer to the toothed leaves, as dent de lion (teeth of the lion) refer to the dandelion’s leaves. The rosette appears in the spring; in the fall a wiry stem appears very quickly. It will grow between 5 to 15 inches, but it does not have the milky sap of the dandelion.

The shaggy flower looks like a miniature dandelion blossom, but the underside of the petals are a rusty red.  I was happy to learn that I am not the only person who has ever mistaken the fall dandelion for hawkweed.  I used to have the orange hawkweed (Hieracium aurentiacum, yet another family) in my lawn, but it has disappeared.

From the photograph with this post you can see my lawn is not fine turf.  Some might call it a typical weedy patch. I prefer to think of it as a flowery mead, with a whole series of flowers appearing in their season, violets, ground ivy, and lots of clover.

If it weren’t for Gail over at Clay and Limestone and Wildflower Wednesday I would probably not have done this bit of research to identify the wildflowers all over my lawn. Thanks, Gail.