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.
- 11 Weeds That Look Like Dandelions – How to Spot Dandelion Impostors!
- 1. Hairy Cat’s Ear (Hypochaeris radicata)
- 2. Sow Thistle (Sonchus oleraceus)
- 3. Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)
- 4. Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)
- 5. False Dandelion (Agoseris spp.)
- 6. Autumn Hawkbit (Scorzoneroides autumnalis)
- 7. Wild Lettuce (Lactuca virosa)
- 8. Narrowleaf Hawksbeard (Crepis tectorum)
- 9. Meadow Hawkweed (Pilosella caespitosa)
- 10. Chicory (Cichorium intybus)
- 11. Lesser Burdock (Arctium minus)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
The Flower Gardener's Bible by Nancy and Lewis Hill is a handy resource for creating a breathtaking garden. The book contains stunning flower garden illustrations, photographs, and tips on improving soil, fending off garden pests, and cultivating flowers with radiant color. It's an excellent resource for new gardeners and green thumbs alike.
5. False Dandelion (Agoseris spp.)
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)
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.
- 13 Common Weeds With Pink Flowers You Might Find In Your Garden!
- 11+ Weeds With Purple Flowers | With Photos for Identification
- 15+ Weeds With Blue Flowers – Blue Weed Identification Guide!
- The 5 Best Electric Corded String Trimmers for Your Garden – Bye-Bye Weeds!
7. Wild Lettuce (Lactuca virosa)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
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!