Latin Name: Hypochaeris
Family: Asteraceae or Compositae
Description: The rosette growth habit, irregularly lobed leaves, and bright yellow flowers are all characteristics that help with the identification of common catsear. Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) resembles catsear but has an unbranched hollow flower stalk (peduncle) much more divided leaves with the tips of the lobes pointing towards the base of the leaf and the flowerheads borne singly at the ends of the long, unbranched, leafless stalks (scapes) arising from the centre of the rosette. Crepis capillaris (L) Wallr (smooth hawkesbeard) can also be distinguished from Hypochoeris radicata in that Hypochoeris radicata has unbranched and/or slightly branching stems whereas Crepis capillaris has grooved stems that are branched from the base or above and upper leaves that are stem clasping. Hypochoeris radicata has obviously hairy leaves. Furthermore, the pappus is mounted on a long slender beak on all seeds whereas Hypochoeris glabra (smooth catsear) occurs in similar habitats but the leaves are generally hairless but sometimes have short, rigid marginal hairs or with sparse, coarse hairs on the upper surface and along the lower midrib. The outer most seeds do not have a beak so the pappus is directly attached to the seed. The pappus of the inner seeds is usually on a long beak.
Edibility Rating out of 5: 2
Medicinal Rating out of 5: 1
Edible Uses: All parts of the catsear plant are edible; however, the leaves and roots are those most often harvested. The leaves are bland in taste but can be eaten raw in salads, steamed, or used in stir-fries. Older leaves can become tough and fibrous, but younger leaves are suitable for consumption. In contrast to the edible leaves of dandelion, catsear leaves only rarely have some bitterness. In Crete, Greece, the leaves of a variety called pachies (παχιές) or agrioradika (αγριοράδικα) are eaten boiled or cooked in steam by the locals.
The root can be roasted and ground to form a coffee substitute.
Warnings: None known for humans. This species is suspected of causing stringhalt in horses if consumed in excess.
Medicinal Uses: Pectoral