Cichorium intybus (Chicory)

Plant Info
Also known as: Blue Sailors, Wild Succory, Blue Dandelion
Genus:Cichorium
Family:Asteraceae (Aster)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:Eurasia
Status:
  • Weedy
Habitat:part shade, sun; roadsides, disturbed sites, waste places, fields
Bloom season:June - October
Plant height:1 to 6 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 7+petals Cluster type: panicle

[photo of flowers] Clusters of 1 to 4 velvety blue 1 to 2 inch dandelion type flower heads widely spaced along mostly naked branches. 5 to 6 small, loose outer bracts encase 6 to 8 inner bracts that tightly enclose the receptacle, all sparsely covered with glandular hairs on the outer surface. Typically 17 rays (petals), each ray with a blue stamen with deep blue fused anthers and a style with a split tip. The tip of each ray has 5 small teeth. Blooms open in the morning and close later in the day (matutinal).

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: lobed Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are alternate, 3 to 10 inches long by ½ to 2¾ inches wide, roughly hairy on both surfaces, the lower leaves dandelion like (oblanceolate), toothed or cleft becoming smaller, unlobed and mostly toothless as they ascend the stem.

[photo of upper leaf axil] Leaves mostly clasp the stem. Branching is strongly divergent from the axils, consistently around 45 degrees, giving dense stands an interwoven appearance. Stems are tough and smooth, more leafy and hairy down lower becoming hairless, more sparse and open up into the panicles. Stem color is green or reddish brown.

Notes:

Chicory is a good example of an invasive species that remains sparsely scattered during early population establishment and then within a few short years shows up in masses everywhere. It is also a good example where the state's herbarium is not getting the collections it needs to document a new species spread—it's hard not to imagine its widespread throughout. Anybody thinking of getting into a new and interesting hobby? Mostly limited to roadsides and waste places but Chicory can encroach upon higher grade dry prairies. The flowers are much like the native Showy Blue Lettuce (Mulgedium pulchellum) but it is a smaller plant with smaller flowers in a more open panicle.

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More photos

Photo by K. Chayka taken at Battle Creek Regional Park, St Paul. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Ramsey County.

Comments

Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: brin - st paul
on: 2011-05-26 17:42:44

i would like to plant some chicory in my garden...i know it tends to travel, but it also makes great coffee extender, if you know how to process it (i do)...besides the flowers and texture of the plant are really wonderful. as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder i guess.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2011-05-27 07:23:15

You must know that we cannot condone gardening with plants like chicory, which do indeed tend to travel, and which you cannot keep contained in your own space unless you keep it indoors.

There are many plants that have some use to humans, even if it is only an aesthetic quality. But plants are here to benefit the larger ecology, which means insects and other wildlife farther up the food chain. Where invasive species like chicory crowd out natives the ecology degrades. At some point it becomes an ecological wasteland.

A lot of gardeners think "what harm can my little garden plot do?" but don't consider that it isn't just their little corner when those plants start spreading via wind, water, birds and other critters, which they do. Where do you draw the line? When do you start taking responsibility for the effects beyond your own yard? Perhaps you don't think it's a big deal, but some of us do.

Posted by: r otterness - faribault,mn .. on Bagley Ave. between hwy 1 and hwy 21
on: 2011-08-28 20:50:15

Thank you for your comment on this species. We were driving and I just fell in love with the color and had my husband pull over so I could pick some. I looked on this site to see what it was and how I could plant it in my flower bed. But after reading your comment I will not be doing that. I will have to just enjoy looking at them when I see them on the roadside. Thanks again for the warning. R.Otterness

Posted by: Alice - Hennepin County
on: 2012-06-01 21:23:39

I have spent 20 back-breaking years getting rid of the buckthorn on my property (in spite of my neighbors' neglecting theirs) and I try to be ecologically conscientious. But when I came across this site and saw chicory on the invasive list, it really hit me hard. As a child in Wisconsin (5 decades ago) my favorite flower was the beautiful blue chicory growing by the roadside. I don't know another flower quite that color. I loved the name, too. So sad...

Posted by: Diana - Saint Paul, on a lot
on: 2012-07-11 09:04:46

I'm weeding it out on my way home tonight! Thanks for the info. Now I know. It's so satisfying to grow native plants in my yard - and so I am ever watchful for neglected places that harbor super-plants - those invasives that will out-compete anything. Like chicory! It will be gone from the stop sign on the corner by 5pm today.

Posted by: scott - northern clay county near the red river
on: 2012-09-21 21:48:36

I thought it was pretty and started mowing around it. Not for long!

Posted by: Meg - Anoka county
on: 2013-08-09 13:20:43

After reading the above posts about chicory i couldn't help but notice something that was not said. Yes it is sound advice to not transplant this flower or other invasive species but what should be also known is that we could be helping the ecosystem by eating these edible invaders! If you cant beat 'em just eat 'em!

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2013-08-09 13:29:16

Meg, I am all for harvesting invasive species. Why not get something good out of it? Take it all! :-)

Posted by: Eric - St. Paul, Southwest corner of Cretin Ave and Beverly Rd.
on: 2014-10-29 21:56:26

I often drive by the area and wondered what the flower was. They would always mow the flower down so I never really got a decent look at it from the car. I finally had a chance to park and walk up to where they were and was able to pull some from the root. I have it planted in my apartment right now. I was surprised that the leaves look quite similar to other weeds like the dandelion, which explains why they are invasive. Wondering if it would be extremely invasive or a nice touch to introduce them into my parents neighborhood in Corcoran. Most everyone in the neighborhood already spays for dandelion so I don't think they will get too out of hand in the country. Thoughts? BTW, most properties in the neighborhood are 2-3 acres in size with some lots having woods or tall grasses.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2014-10-30 06:16:27

Eric, please don't plant this. Even if the neighbors spray for dandelions it won't stop chicory from escaping into areas that aren't sprayed, especially on 2-3 acre spreads. There are so many native species you could plant instead that would be beneficial to insects and wildlife.

Posted by: Chris - Blue Earth County
on: 2015-08-05 19:04:33

I believe seeing this along US 14, but I haven't stopped to positively i.d. it (65+ mph traffic). Is it still sold as part of seed mix for deer plots? and if so, why?

Posted by: Kelli - Wabasha, MN
on: 2016-07-26 11:26:07

This is rapidly spreading along Hwys 61 and 30 right within Wabasha city lines. My family has had a cabin in that area for years and this is the first summer I've noticed it--and it's everywhere! I thought it'd be a beautiful thing to transplant into my wildflower garden, but now that I know what it is I'll pass!

Posted by: Leanna - Minnetrista
on: 2016-08-03 20:48:17

Along the County road 92 roadside between Minnetrista and Saint Bonifacius. I thought they were so pretty until i found them...Open and blue in the AM and all closed up by afternoon.

Posted by: Kimberly - Freeborn County
on: 2017-03-16 14:20:51

A couple of plants north of Twin Lakes.

Posted by: MG Rice - neighboring states: IA, SD
on: 2017-07-14 12:48:03

July 2017: Observed along I-29 corridor in MO, IA, NE as far north as Sioux Falls (I did not travel north of there); also along I-90 corridor in SD from Sioux Falls to Spearfish. Colonies in SD along I-90 seemed to be relatively less dense and more sparsely distributed. Had to research it (Chicory) to determine what it was. Pretty flower and interesting habit that would be worthwhile for prairie-type landscapes and gardens were it not for the invasive potential. Maybe somebody should develop a sterile cultivar.

Posted by: Kristen H - Princeton
on: 2017-07-30 11:18:25

Small patch in Cambridge, hwy95, near 65 exit. Also saw a small patch in Ellsworth, Maine last week! Wanted to dig some up for the flower gardens but after reading this....changed my mind. Never saw this flower before....I am very observant to plants, flowers and trees, have been all my life. Why did it just appear?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2017-07-30 12:33:43

Kristen, weeds are commonly transported along roadsides, spread by mowers and vehicle tires. It could have originated from anywhere with a single seed being deposited where you found it.

Posted by: Deb A - Jordan twshp Fillmore Cty
on: 2017-08-12 00:09:29

Large field planted last year by neighbor adjacent to our native oak savannah Federal Grassland Reserve land. Is there any governing process in place to help us get this destroyed and monitored before another years seed is spread.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2017-08-12 06:05:43

Deb, check with your county Soil and Water Conservation District. They may be able to help or put you in touch with the right people.

Posted by: Timothy J - Hennepin
on: 2017-08-21 18:24:45

Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden in Minneapolis has this plant blooming up and down the prairie section paths and even marked with an identifying sign. It would be nice if their sign pointed out it was alien and invasive.

Posted by: Deb A - Jordan twshp Fillmore Co.
on: 2017-09-05 15:25:26

Chicory is being planted as deer and wildlife forage in private Wildlife Food Plots. Chicory is not included in any SWCD, MnDNR, Forestry or Conservation Seed mixes.

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