This section is from the book "Wayside And Woodland Blossoms", by Edward Step. Also available from Amazon: Wayside And Woodland Blossoms: A Guide To British Wild-Flowers.
Cat's-ear is one of those plants that are passed by the rambler as being "perplexing hawkweeds which no one but a German botanist understands." It is not exactly a hawkweed, though it comes pretty close to that family, and roughly may be said to resemble them. Of the Composite flowers we have already dealt with, it will be seen that the Cat's-ear has a blossom similar in structure to Sonchus (page 114), Taraxacum (page 20) and Tragopogon (page 84). It has a perennial tap-root, from which arises and spreads a circlet of many rough hairy leaves, their edges scalloped; there are no stem leaves. The flower-stem is branched, each branch bearing but one flower-head. The involucral bracts are in several series, laid one over the other like tiles. All the corollas are strap-shaped, toothed at the free end, yellow. The pappus or down that surrounds the fruit consists of a row of feathery hairs, surrounded by an outer row of shorter bristles. The flowers are longer than the involucre. Flowers June to September. There are two other British species:
I. Smooth Cat's-ear (H. glabra). An annual plant, found chiefly in dry fields on gravelly soil, but not nearly so commonly as radicata. Its leaves are broader, egg-shaped, and smooth. It has several branched flower-stems. The involucre as long as the florets, the bracts few and unequal. Flowers June to September.
II. Spotted Cat's-ear (H. maculata). A rare perennial, confined to chalky and limestone pastures in several counties, i.e., the Lizard, Cornwall; Orme's head, North Wales; Westmoreland, Cambridgeshire, Suffolk, Essex. Leaves rough, with hairs, stalkless, egg-shaped, often spotted. Flower-stems seldom branched, usually with several small leaves and one large flower-head (sometimes several). Involucre shorter than the florets; outer row of pappus absent. Flowers July and August.
Hypochaeris radicata. - Compositae. -