Carolina False Dandelion

Pyrrhopappus carolinianus

false_dandelion_flower_7-15-14.jpg

Photo of Carolina false dandelion flowerhead.
The flowerheads of Carolina false dandelion are usually solitary, terminal, like those of dandelion but bright sulphur yellow.
James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org
Edible
Family

Asteraceae (daisies, sunflowers)

Description

Taprooted annual or winter annual (leaves produced one year and flowers the next), with white latex, stems single or few, finely ridged. Flowerheads solitary or rarely paired, terminal, like those of dandelion but bright sulphur yellow; inner florets appear dark-flecked from brownish fused anther bases, which surround the style and stigma. Blooms May–October. Basal leaves either entire or pinnatifid (like dandelion leaves), and often disappear by flowering time. The stem leaves, if present, few, alternate, growing to 6 inches long, lanceolate, oblong, entire, or pinnatifid; toothed, partly clasping, sessile. Fruits in dandelion-like puffball.

Similar species: This is the only Pyrrhopappus in Missouri. Other “false dandelions” include 5 species of Krigia and prairie dandelion (Nothocalais cuspidata). Plus there are 2 species of “true dandelions” (genus Taraxacum) in Missouri, including the common dandelion familiar to all.

Size

Height: 1 to 3 feet (depending on soil and moisture).

false_dandelion_leaves_7-15-14.jpg

Photo of Carolina false dandelion basal leaves.
Carolina False Dandelion (Basal Leaves)
The basal leaves of Carolina false dandelion can be much like dandelion leaves. They often disappear by flowering time.
Habitat and conservation

Occurs in dry or wet areas, including upland prairies, glades, swamps, banks of streams and rivers, margins of ponds and lakes, pastures, fields, lawns, ditch banks, railroads, roadsides, and open disturbed places.

image of Carolina False Dandelion distribution map
Distribution in Missouri

Scattered nearly statewide.

Human connections

Native Americans used the plant medicinally and also ate the roots. Wild-edibles enthusiasts eat the greens raw or cooked, much as they would “regular” dandelions. Many consider this a lawn weed to be eradicated, supporting our nation’s multi-billion-dollar lawn-care industry.

Ecosystem connections

The flowerheads usually open in early morning and close by noon. This matches the foraging behavior of a certain type of bee, which thus prefers this species of flower. By sticking to this species, the bee distributes pollen among the same species, making cross-pollination more efficient.