Botanical name: Hypochaeris radicata
Cats ear is one of the most common of the dandelion like weeds. This perennial plant is common on roadside verges and other grassy areas. It can also be quite troublesome in all managed turf, such as sports fields golf tees and fairways.
It forms as a flat basal rosette which can adapt to most mowing regimes enabling it to survive under the cutting height of the mower. However, it can reach heights of between 20 – 60mm (sometimes taller) if it is left undisturbed. It is the ideal plant for introducing into a wild flower mixture, however it is an undesirable plant in turf and lawns.
Cats ear can withstand a low cutting height and will happily thrive in light, free draining rootzones
Like dandelion, it anchors itself into the soil with a deep, stout tap root which helps it thrive in drought stricken turf. In fact is quite common on free draining sites. Reproduction is by seed and cats ear can produce mature flowering plants within a couple of months.
Cats ear Identification
- Leaf: The oblong or lance leaves can grow up to 20cm in length forming from a basal rosette. Each leaf blade is irregularly lobed (the lobes resembling a cats ear) and often covered in fine silvery / white hairs on both the top and underneath. This differs from the dandelion which has smooth leaves and is much more heavily toothed.
- Flowers: The bright yellow flowers are borne on branched stalks and measure 25 – 40mm in diameter. The flower stalks can reach 60cm high and have leaf like bracts, if broken or snapped the stalks contain a milky sap. The flowering period is between June and September.
- Root: The tap root penetrates deep into the ground, enabling the weed to withstand dry conditions
Cats Ear Images (click image to enlarge)
Prevention and control of cats ear
Prevent cats ear from spreading with regular mowing to prevent the seed heads from forming. Ensure good turf health with a balanced feed program and irrigate during times of drought to maintain good grass cover and reduce stress.
This weed can be removed by hand with a suitable tool such as a daisy grubber or small garden fork. For the most effective result remove them when the ground is moist, so as to remove the whole of the tap root. If any of the root is left in the ground then this plant will regenerate.
As cats ear forms solitary plants a spot weeder is ideal for treating this weed. Spot weeders are available from most garden centres and DIY stores and come pre-mixed (no mixing is required) and is simply sprayed onto the weed.
A heavy infestation of cats ear may require a blanket treatment with a herbicide. If practical just treat the area/s of lawn or turf where the weed is growing, this helps keep chemical use down to a minimum.
Cats ear can be a a little stubborn to chemical use and two applications may necessary for satisfactory control. The second application should be applied around 6 weeks after the initial treatment. N.B. The herbicides available for professionals will be more effective than those for amateur use and in most cases a single application should suffice.
Selective herbicides available for the control of cats ear
Professional products (The user requires the appropriate certificate/s to apply these products)
Headland Relay Turf (Mecoprop-p, Dicamba, MCPA)
Headland Cabadex (Fluroxypyr, Flurosulam)
React Ultra (Mecoprop-p, Dicamba, MCPA)
Everris Praxys (Clopyralid, Fluroxypyr, Fluosulam)
Bayer Longbow (Mecoprop-p, Dicamba, MCPA)
Barclay Holster XL (2,4-D, Fluroxypyr, Dicamba)
Mascot Greenor (Clopyralid, Fluroxypyr, MCPA)
Mascot Junction (2,4-D, Flurosulam)
Mascot Crossbar (2,4-D, Flurosulam, Dicamba)
Vitax Esteem (2,4-D, Clopyralid, MCPA)
Products available for non-professional use (These products are available from garden centres and DIY stores).
Verdone extra (Clopyralid, Fluroxypyr, MCPA)
Resolva lawn weed killer (2,4-D, Mecoprop-p, MCPA, Dicamba)
Doff lawn spot weeder (2,4-D, Mecoprop-p, Dichlorprop-p)
Vitax Lawn Clear (2,4-D, Clopyralid, MCPA)
Vitax Green up weed & feed (Dicamba, MCPA)
Weedol lawn weed killer (Clopyralid, Fluroxypyr, MCPA)
Scotts lawn builder weed & feed (2,4-D, Dicamba)
Cats Ear lawn and turf weed, Tips on identification, treatment and control, using cultural lawn care techniques and chemical methods to manage this weed.
Using Cat’s Ear Plants: What Are The Benefits Of Cat’s Ear
To homeowners who desire a perfectly manicured lawn, persistent weeds like dandelion, purslane, plantain and cat’s ear can evoke anger and hatred. However, to gardeners who are fascinated by the healing properties of plants, these same little “weeds” are cherished treasures.
While most gardeners and herbalists have probably heard of the excellent medicinal and culinary uses of dandelion, plantain and purslane, cat’s ear is an oftentimes overlooked and underappreciated herb that is loaded with antioxidants. Continue reading for tips on using cat’s ear plants and learn how to reap the many cat’s ear benefits by keeping this plant around.
Is Cat’s Ear Edible?
Cat’s ear plant is a perennial native to Europe, which has naturalized in North America, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and other regions. In many of these places, cat’s ear is considered a nuisance or noxious weed, but in other places, it is considered a culinary or herbal treasure – all parts of cat’s ear are edible and the plant is high in antioxidants, potassium and lutein.
Cat’s ear plants bear a striking resemblance to dandelion, and is often called false dandelion. Like dandelion, cat’s ear plants form yellow composite flowers on hollow stems, which secrete a milky substance when snapped. The stem grows from a rosette of deeply toothed leaves. After the blooms fade, like dandelion, cat’s ear produces orb-shaped, fluffy seed heads that disperse and float in the wind on fine, silky parachutes. It is very easy to mistake cat’s ear for dandelion.
Prolific seed dispersal and the plant’s unique survival strategies have earned it its own name as a nuisance though. Cat’s ear plants will take on a prostrate, or spreading, growth habit in lawns which are frequently mowed. This flat growth allows the plant to stay just below average mowing heights. In narrow or tight regions, the plant’s adaptability also allows it to grow upright and tall. This tough survivor is listed as a noxious weed in some areas, so you should check for local restrictions before growing cat’s ear.
Common Cat’s Ear Uses
While cat’s ear has a pretty bad reputation in North America, it is a common culinary and medicinal herb in its native range. It was brought to North America by early settlers because of its uses as food and medicine.
As an herbal remedy, cat’s ear uses include treating kidney problems, urinary tract infections, gall bladder issues, constipation, rheumatism and liver problems. Its root contains a natural cortisone which is used to treat allergies, rashes and other itchy skin issues in both people and pets.
In Greece and Japan, cat’s ear is grown as a garden green. The young, tender foliage is eaten raw in salads or cooked in an array of local dishes. The flower stems and buds are steamed or sautéed, like asparagus. Cat’s ear root can also be steamed and sautéed, or roasted and ground into a coffee-like beverage.
If you would like to take advantage of the benefits of cat’s ear, be certain to only collect wild plants from sites where you know there is no chemical or otherwise harmful ground contamination.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article is for educational and gardening purposes only. Before using or ingesting ANY herb or plant for medicinal purposes or otherwise, please consult a physician, medical herbalist or other suitable professional for advice.
While most gardeners have heard the excellent medicinal and culinary uses of dandelion, plantain and purslane, cat's ear is an oftentimes overlooked and underappreciated herb that is loaded with antioxidants. Click here for tips on using cat’s ear plants in the landscape.