This section is from the book "Nature's Garden", by Neltje Blanchan. Also available from Amazon: Nature's Garden; An Aid To Knowledge Of Our Wild Flowers And Their Insect Visitors.
Flower-heads - Reddish orange; 1 in. across or less, the 5-toothed rays overlapping in several series; several heads on short peduncles in a terminal cluster. Stem: Usually leafless, or with 1 to 2 small sessile leaves; 6 to 20 in. high, slender, hairy, from a tuft of hairy, spatulate, or oblong leaves at the base.
Flowering Season - June - September.
Distribution - Pennsylvania and Middle States northward into British Possessions.
Peculiar reddish-orange disks, similar in shade to the butterfly weed's umbels, attract our eyes no less than those of the bees, flies, and butterflies for whom such splendor was designed. After cross-fertilization has been effected, chiefly through the agency of the smaller bees, a single row of slender, brownish, persistent bristles attached to the seeds transforms the head into the "devil's paint-brush." Another popular title in England, from whence the plant originally came, is Grimm the Collier. All the plants in this genus take their name from hierax - a hawk, because people in the old country once thought that birds of prey swooped earthward to sharpen their eyesight with leaves of the hawkweed, hawkbit, or speerhawk, as they are variously called. Transplanted into the garden, the orange hawkweed forms a spreading mass of unusual, splendid color.
Rattlesnake-Weed (Hieracium venosun)
The Rattlesnake-weed, Early or Vein-leaf Hawkweed, Snake or Poor Robin's Plantain (H. venosum), with flower-heads only about half an inch across, sends up a smooth, slender stem, pan-iculately branched above, to display the numerous dandelion-yellow disks as early as May, although October is not too late to find this generous bloomer in pine woodlands, dry thickets, and sandy soil. Purplish-veined oval leaves, more or less hairy, that spread in a tuft next the ground, are probably as efficacious in curing snake bites as those of the rattlesnake plantain (see p. 168). When a credulous generation believed that the Creator had indicated with some sign on each plant the special use for which each was intended, many leaves were found to have veinings suggesting the marks on a snake's body; therefore, by simple reasoning, they must extract venom. How delightful is faith cure!
Unlike the preceding, the Canada Hawkweed (H. Canadense), lacks a basal tuft at flowering time, but its firm stem, that may be any height from one to five feet, is amply furnished with oblong to lance-shaped leaves seated on it, their midrib prominent, the margins sparingly but sharply toothed. In dry, open woods and thickets, and along shady roadsides, its loosely clustered heads of clear yellow, about one inch across, are displayed from July to September; and later the copious brown bristles remain for sparrows to peck at.
The Rough Hawk weed (H. scabrum), with a stout, stiff stem crowned with a narrow branching cluster of small yellow flower-heads on dark bristly peduncles, also lacks a basal tuft at flowering time. Its hairy oblong leaves are seated on the rigid stem. In dry. open places, clearings, and woodlands from Nova Scotia to Georgia, and westward to Nebraska, it blooms from July to September.
More slender and sprightly is the Hairy Hawkweed (H. Gro-novii), common in sterile soil from Massachusetts and Illinois to the Gulf States. The basal leaves and lower part of the stiff stem, especially, are hairy, not to allow too free transpiration of precious moisture.