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Botanical Name:Hypochaeris radicata
Species: H. radicata
Other Names:cat’s ear, false dandelion,long-rooted cat’s-ear, long-rooted hypochoere, spotted cat’s-ear
Etymology and differences from dandelions:
Catsear is derived from the words cat’s ear, and refers to the shape and fine-hair on the leaves resembling that of the ear of a cat.
The plant is also known as false dandelion, as it is commonly mistaken for true dandelions. Both plants carry similar flowers which form into windborne seeds. However, catsear flowering stems are forked and solid, whereas dandelions possess unforked stems that are hollow. Both plants have a rosette of leaves and a central taproot. The leaves of dandelions are jagged in appearance, whereas those of catsear are more lobe-shaped and hairy. Both plants have similar uses.
Habitat:The plant is native to Europe, but has also been introduced to the Americas, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.Found in the eastern United States as far north as New Jersey and as far west as Mississippi.
It is a perennial, low-lying edible herb often found in lawns.The leaves, which may grow up to eight inches, are lobed and covered in fine hairs, forming a low-lying rosette around a central taproot.Cat’s ear dandelion is similar to common dandelion. It has a basal rosette of densely hairy leaves with rounded lobes. This rosette arises from a prominent taproot. If broken, the leaves and flower stalks will emit a milky white sap. Most striking are the bright yellow flowers that are borne on the ends of long stems. Common dandelion plants can be distinguished because young leaves do not have hairs, whereas cat’s ear dandelion leaves have dense hairs. In addition, the leaves of common dandelion are more deeply notched than those of cat’s ear dandelion. On common dandelion, the leaf notches extend almost to the midrib of each leaf.
When mature these form seeds attached to windborne “parachutes”. All parts of the plant exude a milky sap when cut.Typical stems do not occur, however leafless flower stalks (scapes) are present with 2 to 7 flowers on each stalk. Flower stalks also emit a milky sap when broken.
Hypochaeris species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including The Shark.
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 in stir-fries. Older leaves can become tough and fibrous, but younger leaves make for good eating. Some bitterness in the leaves may be apparent but is rare.
The root can be roasted and ground to form a coffee substitute.
Catsear is rich in nutrients and antioxidants – hence its popularity in recipes around the world – and this also means it has long been used for medicinal purposes. Uses include acting as a diuretic for kidney problems, and treating urinary infections, gallstones, rheumatism, constipation and liver infections.
Catsear is considered a noxious weed for livestock and horses. Ingestion of large amounts of catsear can cause a neurological disorder in horses called stringhalt. Stringhalt causes involuntary twitching in the rear legs of the animal and other problems. The symptoms of catsear exposure may clear out of the system in a few years once grazing on the plant has been eliminated from the horse’s diet.
Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider