Common dandelion Taraxacum offinale Weber
Family: Asteraceae (Composite family)
Life cycle: Perennial, reproduces by seed and buds on taproot.
Native status: Native to Eurasia
Habitat: Lawns, cultivated fields, pastures
General description: The plant produces a basal rosette up to 1.5 ft wide. Leaves are deeply toothed and emit a milky sap when broken. Solitary flower heads with yellow disc flowers are produced on a smooth stalk up to 15 in tall. Plant produces a large taproot.
Key ID traits: Leaves are deeply toothed/lobed and emit a milky sap when broken. Lobes typically point backwards to crown. Composite flower heads consist of bright yellow flowers borne on a solitary stalk.
Similar species: Chicory initially produces a rosette of leaves that strongly resembles dandelion, but the stem of chicory elongates and the plant has blue flowers. The teeth of dandelion leaves typically point backwards, whereas those on chickory point in all directions.
Miscellaneous: The name dandelion comes from the French for ‘tooth of the lion’. Some biotypes of dandelion are apomictic, producing seed asexually. Dandelion is one of few plants well adapted to both turf and cultivated fields. Biotypes found in highly disturbed areas invest more resources into seed production, whereas biotypes in less disturbed habitats prioritize the taproot (related article).