Two-flowered Cynthia somewhat resembles a common dandelion. It's a perennial with one or few stalks, with few to several branches above the midpoint. Flowerheads orange-yellow, dandelion-like, but somewhat smaller, to 1½ inch across, terminal on stems normally having one clasping leaf midway on the stalk. The botanical name biflora (“two-flowered”) is misleading, as the plant may have any number of flowerheads. Blooms May–August. Basal leaves spoonlike, on a long peduncle; they can be entire, wavy, toothed, or rarely pinnately lobed. Stem leaves one to few, much reduced, clasping.
Similar species: Five Krigia species are recorded for Missouri. Potato dandelion (K. dandelion), like a “true” dandelion, bears only one flowerhead per stem, but the stems are not hollow. Its roots are small, potato-like tubers about ½ inch long. Virginia dwarf dandelion (K. virginica), resembles a miniature dandelion, rarely more than 3 inches tall. It forms large colonies, often lining cracks in rocks.
Height: to 2 feet.
Generally south of the Missouri River and in the eastern half of the state; uncommon in the Mississippi Lowlands.
Habitat and Conservation
Grows in upland forests, upland prairies, margins of ponds and sinkhole ponds, and banks of streams; also pastures and roadsides. There are several members of the aster family that look something like common dandelions. But unlike the familiar lawn weed, two-flowered Cynthia is a native Missouri wildflower, whose presence should be celebrated.
The aster family, to which this species belongs, is an enormous group containing some 23,000–32,000 species worldwide. Some 330 species are known from Missouri. Studying plants, and applying that knowledge in land management, agriculture, horticulture, and more employs countless people.
Like many other asters, this species attracts a host of bees, flies, wasps, butterflies, and beetles. Like other herbaceous perennials, its roots help stabilize soils and prevent erosion.