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What Is Hawkweed?

Most gardeners consider the vast majority of hawkweeds an invasive weeds that must be eradicated.
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  • Written By: Todd M.
  • Edited By: Kathryn Hulick
  • Last Modified Date: 19 December 2014
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Hawkweed is the common name for nearly any species of the Hieracium genus, most of which are considered weeds. Hawkweeds are small, hardy perennials that produce yellow, orange and red flowers that are very similar to dandelions. These flowers blossom at various times from the early spring through the early fall. There are a few types of hawkweeds that are cultivated as ornamental plants, but most gardeners consider the vast majority of hawkweeds to be invasive weeds that must be eradicated.

There are over 10,000 different types of hawkweed plants distributed throughout the world. Botanists have discovered that many species of Hieracium are capable of evolving into new subspecies much faster than other types of plants. Some of the most common species of these plants include common hawkweed, meadow hawkweed and devil's paintbrush. Like many troublesome species of Hieracium, devil's paintbrush was introduced to the United States as an ornamental plant where it quickly escaped into the wild and began out-competing native plants.

Hawkweed flowers appear at first glance to be very similar to dandelion flowers. Hawkweed flowers consist of a dense, round flower-head with dozens of individual small florets that are often mistaken to simply be petals. Each of these florets has a blunt tip that terminates with the the small teeth that separate hawkweeds from similar members of the Aster family. Most hawkweed flowers are bright yellow, but there are also hawkweed species that blossom with flowers in rich shades of red and orange.

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Gardeners and landscapers consider most hawkweeds to be a troublesome plant, but these weeds play an important role in the environment. Hawkweeds are pollinated by several types of moths, including the lime-speck pug, the Hebrew character and the dot moth. The fruit and seeds of these perennials are an important source of food for animals ranging from the large yellow underwing moth to the common rabbit.

Hawkweeds have traditionally been used in folk medicine to treat a handful of ailments. Many species were formerly used in the production of teas and tonics to treat respiratory illnesses, nausea, and indigestion. Most of these species are no longer recognized as useful by modern herbalists. The mouse ear, however, is one of the few species of these plants that remains popular in alternative medicine. An herbal infusion made from mouse ear by boiling the entire plant is sometimes used as an expectorant to treat chest congestion and other lung conditions.

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fBoyle
Post 4

Hawkweed is also an issue in Australia. The agriculture department even gave a warning recently for hawkweed. It's seen as a threat to biodiversity because it just takes over and pushes out other plants. I can't believe that this weed was sold as an ornamental plant at one point in time. No one would buy it now!

bear78
Post 3

@SarahGen-- Oh yea, you don't want those guys hanging out on your lawn or garden. Before you know it, it will be everywhere and then you will have to hire a professional or use a ton of weed treatment to get rid of them.

Hawkweed is super hardy. It's almost impossible for it to die on its own. It's durable to harsh weather conditions and frost. The seeds can stay in the soil for a long time and germinate in spring.

While getting rid of it, make sure that you don't help distribute the seeds or more will come out. Put a bag over it before you pull it out. Don't allow the seeds to spread. They can even spread in air or on animals. If you get it under control now, you will save yourself a lot of trouble later.

SarahGen
Post 2

I noticed a new weed in the garden and asked my neighbor who knows far more about plants than I do. He identified it as hawkweed. I wanted to learn a little more about it. I actually was considering leaving it alone if it has pretty flowers. But after reading this article, I'm definitely going to get rid of it. Hawkweed sounds scary and I definitely don't want it taking over my garden.

WittyBee
Post 1

I live in a rural area and have orange hawkweed growing along the edge of my woods behind the house. I think it's pretty when it blooms, bit it can spread very quickly.

Whenever it creeps out into our lawn area, I mow it down to keep it under control. As long as it stays along the edge I have no problem with this plant. The hawkweed flowers are interesting. They look like orange-colored dandelions.

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