Life Cycle and Description: Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is a deep-rooted, stemless perennial weed that is probably one of the most widely recognized weeds. It has a long taproot and a basal rosette (circular cluster of leaves radiating from the stem of a plant at ground level) of slightly to deeply cut leaves with lobes that point back towards the base. The rosette remains green year-round. Yellow flowers appear mainly in the spring on long, smooth, hollow stalks. A second bloom occurs in the fall. The leaves and flower stalks exude a milky juice when broken. The flowers give rise to a “puff” ball or globe of parachutelike brown seeds. Seedings emerge from late spring to early fall, with most emerging in early summer, several weeks after the seeds are shed. Dandelion will grow in almost any soil type and is most commonly found in sunny areas. It reproduces by seed and from new plants that develop from pieces of broken taproots.
Carolina falsedandelion (Pyrrhopappus carolinianus) is a winter or biennial with erect branching flowering stems. The leaves are alternate, sharply pointed with leaves that may be deeply lobed or lack lobes. The basal leaves are attached to the stem with petioles; leaves on the stem do not have petioles. In late spring, bright yellow flowers similar to dandelion occur on the ends of stems. The flowers give rise to a “puff” ball comprised of a cluster of brown seeds with a parachute attachment of a long stalk of hairs. It reproduces by seed.
Catsear dandelion (Hypochoeris radicata) is also a perennial weed that produces a basal rosette of leaves. Unlike dandelion, the leaves are densely hairy and have irregular to rounded lobes on the leaf margins. The flower stalk bears two to seven bright yellow flowers that look similar to dandelion. The leaves and flowers also excrete a milky juice when broken.