Chicory is a perennial shrubby herb with stiff, angular branches. Flowerheads emerge all along the stems with light blue or white (occasionally pink), strap-shaped ray florets that are toothed at end. Blooms May-October. Basal leaves resemble those of dandelion, with a prominent center vein, triangular lobes, with deep, rounded sinuses. Leaves become much smaller above the base. Upper branch leaves may be entire, without stems, and narrow. This plant bleeds a milky latex. The hairs on leaves and branches may not be very conspicuous.
Similar species: Florida lettuce (Lactuca floridana) has leaves well developed all along the stems, and the seeds have tufts of hair (chicory’s seeds have a low crown of scales); it can be a much larger plant as well. Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) has leaves that are narrow and linear; the outer florets are enlarged and look like ray florets.