Hypochaeris radicata is a perennial herb from a root crown, roots often enlarged, fleshy; sap milky, most parts hairy, flowering stem 15-60 cm, stiff, wiry, large plants branched above.
Leaves mostly in an overwintering basal rosette, 3-35 cm long, 0.5-7 cm wide, lance-shaped, widest above middle, broadly toothed to divided, surface roughly hairy.
Flowers yellow, all rays (ligulate), heads 2-3 cm wide, bracteate base to 1.5 cm high, bracts overlapping; blooms May-Oct., a long-day plant, obligate out-crosser, self-incompatible, visited by honey bees, solitary bees, flies and some beetles (Aarssen 1981).
Fruit dry, an achene to 0.7 cm long, with a plumed beak, wind-dispersed, also secondarily dispersed by ants; fruits June-Nov.
Wetland status: UPL.
Frequency in NYC: Infrequent.
Habitat: Open disturbed areas, roadsides, edges.
Notes: Tolerant of compacted, nutrient poor acid soil. Reportedly used as greens. Favored by snowshoe hares. Some studies indicate that cat’s ear has allelopathic effects on the germination of other plants. Parasites found on cat’s ear include: the nematode Tylenchus dispaci; a gall midge, Contrarinia hypochoeridis; the cynipid wasp Aulax hypochaeridis; two weevils, Otiorrhynchus cribricollis and Trachyphloeus scabriculus; the parasitic fungus Puccinia hieracii ; a parasitic plant, also introduced from Europe, Orobanche minor; and the Hypochoeris mosaic virus, HMV (Aarssen 1981).