Images: ©Jouko Lehmuskallio

Autumn Hawkbit

Leontodon autumnalis

  • Name also: Fall Dandelion (USA)
  • Family: Daisy Family – Compositae, subfamily Cichorioideae (formerly Chicory Family – Cichoriaceae)
  • Growing form: Perennial herb.
  • Height: 10–40 cm (4–15 in.). Stem usually branched with many capitula, leafless, almost glabrous scape.
  • Flower: Single flower-like capitula 2.5–3 cm (1–1.2 in.) broad, surrounded by involucral bracts. Capitulum flowers yellow (outermost edge usually slightly reddish), tongue-like, tip 5-toothed. Stamens 5. Gynoecium composed of 2 fused carpels. Involucral bracts overlapping in 2–3 rows, hairy–glabrous. Capitula solitary terminating branches, pedicels thickening towards top. Flower with weak, pansy-like, slightly pungent fragrance.
  • Leaves: Basal rosette, stalked, stalks winged. Blade lanceolate, glabrous, pinnate (occasionally large-toothed), lobes long, narrow.
  • Fruit: Almost glossy, yellowish cypsela, crowned with feathery hairs.
  • Habitat: Shores, rocky outcrops, roadsides, paths, wasteland, pastures, yards, lawns, fell tundra meadows, shores, snow-bed sites.
  • Flowering time: July–September.

The scientific name of autumn hawkbit’s genus Leontodon literally means ‘lion’s tooth’. The edges of the leaves are typically large-toothed but there is a large degree of variation between individuals and Finland is home to several mutations, of which little is known.

The most common form var. autumnalis is typically branched, almost hairless, and has many capitula. The dominant form in culturally influenced places in northern Finland, var. pratensis, is often unbranched with few capitula, and its involucral bracts have long and often dark hairs. Var. taraxaci is a fell plant and thus an extreme form, usually having only one capitulum, leaves that are almost entire, and involucral bracts with long and dark hair. Other mutations of autumn hawkbit have been described in the Nordic countries, but they have not been studied in the wild in Finland. Mutations of autumn hawkbit are not always clearly delineated but are rather characterized by gradual change. This is due to the way that the species reproduces: the flowers usually have to be cross-pollinated to be fertilized, and the asexual, apomictic form of reproduction that is favoured by other members of the Chicory subfamily doesn’t work. Only two species of autumn hawkbit grow in Finland – not much at all compared to the vast range of hawkweeds and dandelions that exist.

Rough hawkbit (L. hispidus) blooms earlier than autumn hawkbit and can be differentiated by its wide-lobed and usually stellate-haired leaf-blade, and it is also usually more robust. Autumn hawkbit also looks quite a lot like certain dandelions (Taraxacum), although the latter’s flowering scapes are unbranched.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family
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