Through our virtual programming series, Nature in your Neighborhood, we challenged volunteers to go out into their neighborhoods or backyards to see what plants sparked their interest. Whether plants are native or non native, we can all appreciate a connection to nature and the curiosity that it can spark!
By: Akansha Sallakonda
A couple years ago during the summertime, I visited Point Reyes (in California) and came across a group of small flowers. I initially thought they were dandelions due to their bright yellow color, but I’ve recently realized they’re actually the Common Cat’s-Ear (otherwise known as the Hypochaeris radicata). It’s a perennial (long-lasting) herb that is native to Europe. Introduced to the Americas, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, this plant has been classified as a non-native, noxious weed.
The common cat’s-ear is commonly mistaken for the dandelion, hence it’s informal name “the false dandelion.” Both plants have a rose-like shape of petals and carry windborne seeds. However, while the common cat’s-ear’s petals are forked, the dandelion’s are rounded. Additionally, the leaves of a common cat’s-ear are less jagged.
Though the catsear plant has become somewhat infamous in the US, early settlers actually brought it here due to its culinary and medical uses. All its parts are edible, but the leaves and roots are more commonly harvested. The leaves can be eaten raw, steamed, or fried. It’s better to use younger leaves since older ones are tougher and fibrous. Roots can be ground and used to make a coffee-like drink. In herbal remedies, the catsear plant has been used for treating kidney and liver problems, urinary tract infections, gallbladder issues, and constipation. Of course, make sure to consult a medical professional before consuming for medicinal purposes.