Scorzoneroides autumnalis (Autumn Hawkbit)
|Also known as:||Fall Dandelion|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; disturbed soil; roadsides, waste places, lawns|
|Bloom season:||August - October|
|Plant height:||4 to 15 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: none MW: FACU NCNE: FACU|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Solitary yellow dandelion-type flower heads at the tips of branches forking off a central stem, typically 2 to 5 flowers per stem, though larger plants may be further branched. Flowers are ¾ to about 1 inch across with 20 to 30 ray flowers (petals) that are flat, tongue-like (a.k.a. “ligulate”) and have 5 tiny teeth at the tip. Each ray is attached to the fertile flower consisting of fused anthers and stigma/style.
The outer rays are commonly streaked with red on the underside. The bracts (phyllaries) surrounding the base of the flower are in 2 or 3 layers, lance-linear, tapering to a pointed tip, hairless or sparsely covered in woolly hairs. Flower stalks/branches are hairless to sparsely woolly hairy, with scattered scale-like bracts.
Leaves and stems:
Edges are variously lobed, ranging from deep cuts with linear segments to shallow, irregular teeth, sometimes nearly smooth. The terminal lobe is rounded to pointed at the tip. Flowering stems are multiple from the base, slender, green or purple tinged, and hairless except near the flowering heads.
Every fall, residents of Duluth and more so New Duluth (and likely nearby Superior, WI) may notice what looks like a prolific crop of dandelions in their yards and along roadways from August into October. While easy to mistake at a glance, closer inspection reveals a new weedy lawn species spreading throughout the area: Autumn Hawkbit (or Fall Dandelion), formerly known as Leontodon autumnalis. These yellow flowers are generally smaller than our two lawn dandelions (Taraxacum sp.), typically flatter in profile with fewer ray flowers and, unlike the one flower per stalk of dandelions, the central stalk is branched, forking into 2 to 5 branchlets, each with a single flower at the tip. The undersides of the outer ray flowers are commonly distinctly reddish and the seed plume (pappus) is light brown and not stalked, unlike the whitish, stalked pappas of other dandelions. And while the leaves are similarly basal and lance-oblong in shape, the margins can be nearly toothless to deeply lobed with linear segments.
Several references note that it can grow to over 2 feet in height; one may presume the flower stems are fairly heavily branched, but where we've encountered it, it's been little more than 8 inches tall and probably subject to repeated mowings. First collected in the Duluth area in 1995, it has likely been around much longer but just went unnoticed. Like other wind spread weedy species that showed up first in the Duluth area (Hieracium sp. in particular), it can be expected to expand out from the area, especially south into small towns and urban areas due to the abundance of its preferred habitat: the weedy, but overly loved, mown bluegrass lawn. Move over dandelion, there's a new kid in the neighborhood.
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Where to buy native seed and plants ↓
- Autumn Hawkbit plants
- Autumn Hawkbit plants
- a lawn full of Autumn Hawkbit
- Autumn Hawkbit with Common Dandelion
- pappus of Autumn Hawkbit compared to Red-seeded Dandelion
- flowering stems are branched, with scattered scale-like bracts
- 1909 botanical illustration
Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in St. Louis County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?