Very hairy, usually single-stemmed perennial herb with milky sap. Flowerheads few to many, terminal, each with a peduncle (stem), in open clusters, yellow, small, about ½ inch across. There are 20–40 florets per head. Blooms May–October. Basal leaves broadly obovate, very hairy, rough, variable in length to 8 inches. Stem leaves alternate, smaller, becoming sessile, also very hairy.
Similar species: There are 4 species of Hieracium recorded for Missouri. Long-haired hawkweed (H. longipilum) occurs in a broad band from southwest to northeast Missouri and prefers open areas. It has spreading hairs about ½ to ¾ inch long. Sticky hawkweed (H. scabrum) is scattered to common in the eastern half of the state. It has 40–100 florets per head.
Height: quite variable, commonly from 1 to nearly 3 feet.
Scattered, mostly south of the Missouri River, and in some of our eastern counties.
Habitat and Conservation
Occurs in rich to dry upland forests, ledges and tops of bluffs, and borders of glades; also pastures, old fields, and roadsides. There are several weedy European species of hawkweeds that are serious pasture and grassland weeds on our continent. One of these, yellow king-devil (H. caespitosum), has been found, but is so far quite rare, in our state. Unfortunately, it is likely that more of these invasives will eventually arrive in our state.
Hawkweeds, chicory, salsify, lettuce, dandelions, and others belong to a distinct, easy-to-recognize tribe of the sunflower family, the Cichorieae (chicory tribe). Although most sunflowers have different disk (center) and petal-like ray florets, as in a typical sunflower, plants in the chicory tribe have flowerheads containing florets that are all the same. Each individual floret has a straplike extension with 5 teeth at the tip. Another hallmark of the chicory tribe is white, milky sap.
Botanists who study the hawkweeds cannot agree about how many species there are. Although New World species are fairly distinct and easy to tell apart, those in Europe hybridize so much that thousands of species have been named over there. Estimates vary from 100 to many more than 1,000 species!
A variety of insects, including bees, flies, beetles, and others, visit the flowers. Birds eat the seedheads. Deer and rabbits eat the leaves.