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11 Weeds That Look Like Dandelions – Ultimate Identification Guide!

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Common dandelions symbolize childhood, summertime, and making wishes come true! Who doesn’t fondly remember telling the time with a dandelion clock? However, as much as these yellow flowers have a place in my heart, many weeds that look like dandelions are not quite so welcome!

Some of these dandelion doppelganger weeds can pose challenges for homeowners, gardeners, and landscapers alike, as they can quickly spread and compete with desirable plants for resources. However, others can be beneficial in many ways, whether for culinary or medicinal purposes or attracting pollinators to your yard.

It’s time to give these dandelion look-alikes their due and learn to discover if they are friends or foes! Understanding the crucial differences between dandelions and their imitators is essential for effective weed management and maintaining a healthy lawn and garden ecosystem.

So – let’s look closely at 11 of the top culprits.

Shall we?

11 Weeds That Look Like Dandelions – How to Spot Dandelion Impostors!

Several plants can be easily confused with dandelions, flourishing in wildflower meadows, roadsides, and woodland habitats. As is the nature of wild plants, many can even cultivate and pop up in your ornamental garden or vegetable plot.

Let’s look at how to spot these dandelion impostors and determine if they are worth keeping. Or not!

1. Hairy Cat’s Ear (Hypochaeris radicata)

lovely yellow catsear flowers that look like dandelion growing in the lawn
Let’s start our list of weeds that look like dandelions with a lovely herbaceous perennial weed. Hairy cat’s ear! These yellow-flowered plants have bright and showy yellow flowers. They’re super easy to confuse with dandelions. The best way to distinguish the two is by observing the leaves. Upon closer inspection, a hairy cat’s ear plant has blatantly hairy leaves. Some consider these yellow daisy look-a-likes invasive since it flourishes in various soils and matures in only 60 days. However, it attracts pollinators and is also edible. So, we don’t mind them. That much!

Other names: Flatweed, common catsear, spotted catsear, false dandelion, Australian capeweed, Californian dandelion, frogbit, gosmore, and rough cat’s ear

Hairy cat’s ear resembles dandelions but has a narrower stem and more finely divided leaves. Its leaves have more hair, and its flower head is smaller and more compact. It grows in various habitats, including fields and meadows, but prefers sunny areas. The roots and leaves of hairy cat’s ear are edible – the slender leaves are perfect in salad and stir-fries, and the tender plant roots can get roasted and ground as a substitute for coffee.

This dandelion look-a-like is native to Europe but has been introduced to many other countries worldwide. Hairy cat’s ear spreads effortlessly and invades lawns, where it can be tricky to eradicate. Hypochaeris radicata is also considered a noxious weed in some U.S. states.

Hairy cat’s ear is commonly confused with smooth cat’s ear (Hypochaeris glabra), which has a similar appearance but – as the name suggests – its leaves are silky rather than hairy. And smooth cat’s ear isn’t famous for medicinal or culinary purposes.

2. Sow Thistle (Sonchus oleraceus)

yellow milk thistle flowers growing wildly in a field
Sow thistle is another plant easily confused with dandelion leaf. Both bear beautiful yellow flowers and tender green foliage. It’s worth noting that several sow thistle varieties exist in annual and perennial forms. However, most sow thistle varieties and their yellow plant flowers appear the same. And they produce a thick, milky sap. Many homesteaders complain that they invade their flower beds and vegetable gardens in the spring. However, sow thistles also attract beneficial pollinators and predators, so we tolerate their presence if it’s not overwhelming.

Other names: Hare’s colwort, hare’s thistle, milky tassel, milk thistle, and soft thistle

Sow thistle is a flowering shrub. It belongs to the same plant family as sunflowers and daisies. It can be mistaken for dandelions, but sow thistle leaves are spikier, and the flower head is larger and more spread out.

This weed grows in disturbed soils, such as wasteland, roadsides, and gardens. The bitter leaves are edible and can be used in salads, soups, and stews, and are a valuable food source for wild animals. Sow thistle also has medicinal properties and is used in traditional medicine to treat various ailments such as respiratory problems, digestive disorders, and skin diseases.

Despite its health benefits, many gardeners in some regions consider sow thistle an undesirable weed because it can quickly spread and overtake other plants.

3. Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)

lovely coltsfoot flowers with a friendly butterfly visitor
Coltsfoot is a famous perennial for two reasons. First, it has tiny flower buds that closely resemble dandelions. It also has crisp leaves famous for helping treat emphysema, bronchitis, and asthma. Documentation of using coltsfoot for medicinal use dates back to 1597 – when John Gerard published tips for using coltsfoot to help treat inflammation, shortness of breath, and ulcers. We’ve also read that ancient homesteaders have used crushed coltsfoot leaves to help alieve insect bites.

Other names: Horsefoot, foalfoot, coughwort, and sowfoot

Coltsfoot is a perennial flowering plant native to Europe and Asia but has gotten introduced to other parts of the world, including North America. It grows up to 30 cm tall and has large, round, green leaves with smooth edges that resemble the shape of a colt’s foot, hence the name. The plant produces bright yellow flowers on slender stems that bloom in early spring before the leaves appear.

Coltsfoot has rounder, hairy leaves in a basal rosette and smaller flowers than dandelions. Dandelion plants will grow in most habitats, whereas coltsfoot prefers wetter ground.

In traditional medicine, this perennial herb is famous for having expectorant and antitussive properties that help relieve coughs and soothe the respiratory system. However, coltsfoot should get used cautiously, as it contains toxic alkaloids that can cause liver damage if consumed in large quantities.

4. Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)

yellow groundsel flowers growing in the woods
Common groundsel is an annual broadleaf that reaches about two feet tall. The flowers resemble dandelions. But they don’t have a single flower growing pattern. Instead, you’ll notice that common groundsel develops tightly-knit clusters of showy yellow flowers. You can find common groundsel growing nearly anywhere – from cracks in the sidewalks, flower beds, and fields. They also have reputations for invading nurseries. They can grow and flourish nearly anywhere with nutrient-rich, moist soil.

Other names: Old-man-in-the-spring, staggerwort, stinking Willie, grimsel, simson, bird seed, chickenweed, and grand mouron

It is easy to see how common groundsel could be mistaken for a true dandelion, as the distinctive fluffy round seed heads look nearly identical! The leaves of common groundsel are spikier and grow on a taller stem than dandelions. The flower head is smaller and more compact, resembling a dandelion flower that has not fully opened.

Common groundsel grows in various habitats, including gardens and disturbed areas. It is easy to keep under control by mowing mature plants or hoeing seedlings. Common groundsel is poisonous and should not get consumed.

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5. False Dandelion (Agoseris spp.)

yellow false dandelion flowers growing wildly in the mountains
False dandelions are perennial weeds that look like dandelions. Most varieties love growing in dry habitats with sandy soil. They can flourish in open, arid areas, including conifer forests, pine barrens, and open grasslands.

OK. The name false dandelion is a bit misleading, as it can refer to many dandelion impostors. (For example, hairy cat’s ear, which claims the top spot on our list!)

However, the plant group most commonly named false dandelions belongs to the Agoseris family. These plants look almost identical to dandelions, but their leaves are more deeply lobed, and the flowers are slightly smaller. False dandelions are not poisonous but are not famous for medicinal or culinary purposes.

False dandelions grow in a variety of habitats, from which most of them take their name:

  • Seaside False Dandelion / Coast Dandelion (Agoseris apargioides)
  •  Prairie False Dandelion (Agoseris glauca)
  •  California Dandelion (Agoseris grandiflora)
  •  Mountain Dandelion (Agoseris heterophylla)
  •  Coast Range Dandelion (Agoseris hirsuta)
  •  Sierra Nevada Mountain Dandelion (Agoseris monticola)
  • Texas Dandelion (Pyrrhopappus carolinianus)

False dandelion is arguably the most convincing specimen of all the weeds that look like dandelions.

6. Autumn Hawkbit (Scorzoneroides autumnalis)

lovely golden yellow hawkbit wildflowers cluster
Autumn hawkbits are perennial weeds that look like dandelions – so much to the point that many homesteaders call them fall dandelions. Autumn hawkbits have branching stems and striking yellow flowers that bloom later than dandelions – in late summer to early autumn.

Other names: Fall dandelion

Autumn hawkbit looks like dandelions but tends to be shorter and has fewer petals on its flower head. It is found in grassy areas and meadows and can get identified by its long, narrow leaves that are deeply lobed. This perennial plant is edible and has a slightly bitter taste.

Another yellow-flowered plant often confused with dandelions is bristly hawkbit, also known as rough hawkbit (Leontodon hispidus). They produce flowers that are remarkably similar to dandelion flowers. And they are highly prized in wildflower meadows for their high nectar content.

Read More!

7. Wild Lettuce (Lactuca virosa)

wild lettuce lactuca virosa with lovely yellow flowers
Wild lettuce are lovely weeds that look like dandelions and sow thistles. Wild lettuce quickly grows four feet tall. And it doesn’t summon friendly pollinators as much as other dandelion look-alikes on our list – so some gardeners consider wild lettuce invasive. However, we should note that wild lettuce is famous for helping various ailments, including asthma, insomnia, whooping cough, and muscle pains. Some homesteaders have also smoked wild lettuce for recreational use. However, we don’t advise doing so. WebMD notes the effects are unproven. And wild lettuce could even be toxic.

Other names: Bitter lettuce, opium lettuce, great lettuce, and rakutu-karyumu-so

Wild lettuce is a common edible weed found throughout North America and Europe. It belongs to the same family as garden lettuce and is known for its tall, spiky stems and bitter-tasting leaves. The plant produces small yellow flowers in the summer, which give way to small, fluffy seed heads similar to those seen on dandelions.

Wild lettuce is often confused with prickly lettuce (Lactuca serriola), but its leaves are spikier, and its flower head is smaller and more compact.

8. Narrowleaf Hawksbeard (Crepis tectorum)

harvesting some lovely yellow crepis tectorum narrowleaf flowers
Narrlowleaf hawksbeard is an invasive weed that looks like dandelions. They produce tiny yellow flowers, and the leaves have a hairy texture. Narrowleaf hawksbeard grows throughout North America. It takes over forage crops, pastures, gardens, and farmland. Usually, we don’t panic over a few weeds. But, Narrow hawksbeard grows up to three feet tall. And the plants produce upwards of 49,000 seeds that spread via wind! It’s a fast-spreading weed that can overwhelm your entire homestead – pastureland included.

Other names: Yellow hawk’s beard

Narrowleaf hawksbeard is a common weed found throughout North America and Europe. It belongs to the sunflower family and is often mistaken for a dandelion due to its bright yellow flower heads.

The plant typically grows up to 2 feet tall and has long, narrow leaves that are deeply lobed and slightly hairy. It produces yellow flower heads on slender stalks, which bloom in the summer before making fluffy rounded seed heads.

Narrowleaf hawksbeard is valued for its beauty and is a favorite among wildflower enthusiasts. However, it is considered an invasive weed in many areas, as it can quickly spread and compete with nearby plants for resources.

9. Meadow Hawkweed (Pilosella caespitosa)

bright hawkweed flower blooming on a beautiful day
Meadow hawkweed is another undesirable perennial weed that looks like dandelions. Notice how each stem contains several tightly-packed flower heads. Unlike a few farm-friendly weeds on our list, meadow hawkweed is one you want to avoid. And manage! The problem with meadow hawkweed is that it’s resilient and aggressive. It can easily outcompete native flowers, pasture, or desirable vegetation.

Other names: Yellow hawkweed, field hawkweed, yellow king devil, devil’s paintbrush, and yellow fox-and-cubs

Meadow hawkweed is a perennial wildflower widely naturalized in North America. You can find it growing in sunny spots in meadows, pastures, and open forests, and its bright yellow flowers can easily be mistaken for dandelions.

These flowers are pollinated by insects such as bees, butterflies, and moths, making them a valuable food source for wildlife. However, meadow hawkweed can become invasive due to its ability to spread by both seeds and rhizomes. In some areas, it gets classified as a noxious weed, and landowners must control its spread.

10. Chicory (Cichorium intybus)

beautiful purple violet chicory flowers blooming on a lovely day
Chicory is a beautifully-blue or violet flower that you often see decorating roadsides and fields. But chicory plants don’t always have flowers! That’s because chicory is a perennial crop that only blooms in the second and succeeding years. The fascinating thing about chicory is that it resembles dandelion up until the point when it begins flowering. But we confess – when chicory plants finally blossom, there’s no mistaking this breathtaking flower as a yellow-flowered dandelion.

Other names: Blue daisy, blue sailor, wild bachelor’s button, blue dandelion, and coffeeweed

While all the plants on our list (thus far) are notable for their vibrant yellow dandelion-like flowers, the last two entries are somewhat different!

In the early stages of growth, chicory can resemble real dandelions, with a ring of flat basal leaves growing in a rosette. However, once the bright blue flowers open, you’ll be in no doubt that this plant is not a dandelion!

Chicory is edible and has a slightly bitter taste. And the tender leaves are commonly used in salads. The roots can be roasted, ground, and used as a coffee substitute.

11. Lesser Burdock (Arctium minus)

purple and green lesser burdock flower with a friendly bee visitor
We’re finishing our list of weeds that look like dandelions with an herbaceous biennial wildflower. Lesser burdock! Lesser burdock has big, dark green leaves with pink, purple, or lavender flowers. They reproduce quickly and extensively, and each plant produces 15,000 seeds. It’s an aggressive spreader and can overtake your yard and outcompete native shrubs. But, in its defense, lesser burdock attracts beneficial honeybees and butterflies. And it also has edible leaves, stems, and roots.

Other names: Little burdock, louse-bur, button-bur, cuckoo-button, and wild rhubarb

With its low-growing rosette of flat green leaves, burdock is a weed that looks similar to dandelions in the early stages of growth. As time passes, the leaves become heftier and heart-shaped, and the dark purple flowers make it easy to differentiate from dandelions.

Burdock grows in a variety of habitats, including fields and meadows. It is edible and has a slightly sweet taste, and is famous in Asian cuisine and as a medicinal plant.

Conclusion

Thanks so much for reading our guide about weeds that look like dandelions.

We always try our best not to rush judgment regarding unwanted garden weeds.

But we hope we’ve showcased that not all of these dandelion look-a-likes are worth pulling.

Some are as elegant as they are beautiful. Others provide food for honeybees and butterflies. Some are worth keeping!

Thanks again for reading.

And have a lovely day!

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