These dandelion look-a-likes are notoriously difficult to identify. They look similar and they have similar names; hawkweeds, hawkbits, hawksbeards, just where do you start? Indeed, for the casual observer like me it is almost impossible to approach these flowers with any confidence at all.
The usual rules can be applied, however, and by taking in to account habitat, the time of year it is in flower and how common a species is helps to narrow down the field to a limited choice. With the narrow-leaved hawkweed (Hieracium umbellatum) these rules help because it occurs on dry heathland where it is quite common. From there it is just a question of telling it apart from the limited number of species occurring in such conditions. It then becomes relatively easy because narrow-leaved hawkweed is a tall plant with a tight cluster of small, dandelion-like flowers at the top of the stem and a series of opposite, narrow and pointed leaves occurring along the full length of the stem, bigger leaves at the bottom getting smaller as you go us. This array of leaves up the stem gives rise to its other common name, leafy hawkweed.
Even with this series of diagnostic steps it is still easy to get it wrong but don't worry, even experts can struggle with this family of plants!Narrow-leaved Hawkweed: the leafy hawkweed