Orange Hawkweed

2017 April 15

Right around the end of June, and running through most of July, we start seeing little orange flowers in the yard, like these that I photographed on July 2, 2016.


The flowers grow in clusters at the end of a fairly long stalk (about 6 to 12 inches tall), and don’t all bloom at once. The stems are a bit furry.


The actual leaves of the plants grow in a low rosette, and blend into the lawn to the point where I didn’t get a really clear picture. But that’s OK, because nobody notices any part of the plant other than the blossoms anyway.

These are pretty clearly Orange Hawkweed, which Wikipedia says has the official name Pilosella aurantiaca, but pretty much everyone else calls them Hieracium aurantiacum. And some sites can’t make up their minds which name to call it by. Maybe there was a recent name change, but I haven’t seen any indication of which name is the old one and which is the new. I actually thought that this was the sort of naming confusion that scientific names were supposed to avoid, but things seem to have gone off the rails a bit in this case. The common name situation is even worse, with the plant going by the various names Orange Hawkweed, Devil’s Paintbrush, Tawny Hawkweed, Fox-and-Cubs, Grim-the-Collier, King Devil, Orange Paintbrush, Red Daisy Flameweed, Devil’s Weed, Missionary Weed, and probably a bunch of other things. Most of the uncomplimentary names (the ones that have “Devil” in them) are a result of the fact that this plant kind of takes over pastures, and the fuzziness makes it so that cattle won’t eat them. They also have a latex-type milky sap that probably tastes pretty foul.

This is another European invasive species. Originally they grew up in the European Alps, where supposedly they are a protected species in some regions. This is emphatically not the case in North America, where it is generally classed as an invasive species and a noxious weed. It seems to be most common in cooler parts of North America, and does particularly well in lawns and pastures that regularly get mowed or cropped short.

This and the other hawkweeds are superficially similar to the related dandelions, and reproduce with large numbers of parachute-type seeds. The hawkweeds bloom later than the dandelions, and are really popular with the bees.

2 Responses
  1. Carole permalink
    April 15, 2017

    Don’t believe they’ve made it to northwest FL

  2. April 18, 2017

    They may not ever make it that far south in any quantity. They appear to be a cool-weather species, and anywhere in Florida may be too hot for them to really thrive. Although, the USDA range map does show them at least having the possiblity of being found in Florida.

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