COMPOSITE FAMILY - Compositae: Chicory; Succory; Blue Sailors; Bunk
Flower-head--Bright, deep azure to gray blue, rarely pinkish or white, 1 to 1-1/2 in. broad, set close to stem, often in small clusters for nearly the entire length; each head a composite of ray flowers only, 5-toothed at upper edge, and set in a flat green receptacle. Stem: Rigid, branching, 1 to 3 ft. high. Leaves: Lower ones spreading on ground, 3 to 6 in. long, spatulate, with deeply cut or irregular edges, narrowed into petioles, from a deep tap-root; upper leaves of stem and branches minute, bract-like.
Preferred Habitat--Roadsides, waste places, fields.
Distribution--Common in eastern United States and Canada, south to the Carolinas; also sparingly westward to Nebraska.
At least the dried and ground root of this European invader is known to hosts of people who buy it undisguised or not, according as they count it an improvement to their coffee or a disagreeable adulterant. So great is the demand for chicory that, notwithstanding its cheapness, it is often in its turn adulterated with roasted wheat, rye, acorns, and carrots. Forced and blanched in a warm, dark place, the bitter leaves find a ready market as a salad known as "barbe de Capucin" by the fanciful French. Endive and dandelion, the chicory's relatives, appear on the table, too in spring, where people have learned the possibilities of salads, as they certainly have in Europe.
From the depth to which the tap-root penetrates, it is not unlikely the succory derived its name from the Latin succurrere = to run under. The Arabic name chicourey testifies to the almost universal influence of Arabian physicians and writers in Europe after the Conquest. As chicorée, achicoria, chicoria, cicorea, chicorie, cichorei, cikorie, tsikorei, and cicorie the plant is known respectively to the French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italians, Germans, Dutch, Swedes, Russians, and Danes.
On cloudy days or in the morning only throughout midsummer the
"peasant posy" opens its "dear blue eyes"
"Where tired feet
Toil to and fro;
Where flaunting Sin
May see thy heavenly hue,
Or weary Sorrow look from thee
Toward a tenderer blue!"
In his "Humble Bee" Emerson, too, sees only beauty in the
"Succory to match the sky;"
but, mirabile dictu, Vergil, rarely caught in a prosaic,
practical mood, wrote,
"And spreading succ'ry chokes the rising field."