Dandelions (Taraxacum) are often recognized by children of all ages. These flowers are famous for their puff ball of seeds, “fluffy globes called ‘clocks'” that can blow away on the wind. But catsears or false dandelions (Hypochoeris radicata) are an edible herb that’s not as quickly recognized, even though they’re both yellow-orange with wind-borne seeds. This Deep Look from KQED and PBSDS notes their similarities and differences and gets up close with their anatomies.
Under a dandelion’s ― and a catsear’s ― petals you’ll see green structures that hold the bloom. They’re called phyllaries. In catsears, they all point up. In dandelions, some phyllaries curl down.
Dandelion and common catsear leaves have a similar shape, with toothed edges that give dandelions their name ― an adaptation from the French dent-de-lion, or lion’s tooth. The leaves of the common catsear are more lobed than pointy and they’re furry, while dandelions’ are smooth. Both leaves are edible, prepared in salads or sautéed.
One other way to tell them apart is that each stem of catsears branches into multiple blooms, while dandelions have only one bloom per stem.
Learn more about these wind-loving plants at KQED.org.
Bonus: Seed dispersal videos.