Taprooted annual or winter annual (leaves produced one year and flowers the next), with white latex, stems single or few, finely ridged. Flowerheads solitary or rarely paired, terminal, like those of dandelion but bright sulphur yellow; inner florets appear dark-flecked from brownish fused anther bases, which surround the style and stigma. Blooms May–October. Basal leaves either entire or pinnatifid (like dandelion leaves), and often disappear by flowering time. The stem leaves, if present, few, alternate, growing to 6 inches long, lanceolate, oblong, entire, or pinnatifid; toothed, partly clasping, sessile. Fruits in dandelion-like puffball.
Similar species: This is the only Pyrrhopappus in Missouri. Other “false dandelions” include 5 species of Krigia and prairie dandelion (Nothocalais cuspidata). Plus there are 2 species of “true dandelions” (genus Taraxacum) in Missouri, including the common dandelion familiar to all.
Height: 1 to 3 feet (depending on soil and moisture).
Scattered nearly statewide.
Habitat and Conservation
Occurs in dry or wet areas, including upland prairies, glades, swamps, banks of streams and rivers, margins of ponds and lakes, pastures, fields, lawns, ditch banks, railroads, roadsides, and open disturbed places.
Native Americans used the plant medicinally and also ate the roots. Wild-edibles enthusiasts eat the greens raw or cooked, much as they would “regular” dandelions. Many consider this a lawn weed to be eradicated, supporting our nation’s multi-billion-dollar lawn-care industry.
The flowerheads usually open in early morning and close by noon. This matches the foraging behavior of a certain type of bee, which thus prefers this species of flower. By sticking to this species, the bee distributes pollen among the same species, making cross-pollination more efficient.