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I have been interested in nature for most of my life but since I retired I spend as much time as I can exploring the nature reserves and wildlife hotspots of my adopted home, Dorset in southern England. Whilst out I record what I see and take snaps where I can (I am no photographer!) and that forms the basis of my Nature of Dorset website. When I find something new I like to research it and write about it in my nature notes, it is how I learn and hopefully you might find my notes helpful as well!

This website is for the people of Dorset interested in wildlife and for people from elsewhere interested in the wildlife of Dorset!

08 October, 2010

Common Cat's-ear (Hypochaeris radicata)

There are a number of different plants with a complex ‘dandelion’ like flower and they can be quite confusing at first. The secret (if there is one) is to look beyond the flower at the plant itself.

In addition to the Dandelion there are three other flowers commonly found in these later months of the season and I have written about Autumnal Hawkbit and Bristly Oxtongue in recent weeks and here is the third, Common Cat’s-ear.

Common Cat’s-ear gets its name from little ‘ear-shaped’ leaflettes that can be found on the otherwise smooth stems and this is the defining factor. The overall ‘look’ of this plant is different too when you get to know it; it is totally smooth and hairless whereas the other two out in flower at the moment are very scruffy and hairy, even prickly. As I say, you just need to look at the leaves and stems rather than the flowers if you want to tell them apart.

You can find Common Cat’s-ear out in flower from June onwards until the frosts put an end to them. You can find them just about anywhere; on roadside verges, in hedgerows, in meadows and grassland, on sea cliffs, sand dunes, indeed anywhere as long as the soil is not too chalky.