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Catsear is an herbaceous perennial originally native to Morocco. It is a very successful colonizing species that is now present on all continents except Antarctica. It is a plant in which the flower resembles other plants. Catsear is in the Asteraceae family.
Common catsear is a perennial with a growth form similar to that of dandelion; its leaves form a basal rosette and it produces yellow head-like flowers at the tips of upright stems. Leaves of common catsear are typically lance-shaped with irregular rounded lobes and hairs on both the upper and lower surfaces. Emerging from the rosette are wiry hairless stems that usually have leaf-like bracts and branches. At the tips of the branches is a flower head composed of many tubular, yellow flowers.
A single, dandelion-like flower head is produced at the end of each branch. The yellow flower heads are flat and 2 to 4 cm in diametre. Each flower head is composed of many individual petal-like flowers.
The first leaves (cotyledons) are club-shaped, with a round apex, and hairless. The mature leaves grow to 15 to 20cm long. The leaves are arranged in a basal rosette and are hairy with toothed or irregularly lobed margins. The basal leaves are obovate in shape and are 5 to 20cm long and 10 to 40mm wide with toothed margins that are deeply wavy. The basal leaves are also densely hairy, rarely without hairs, and are sessile. The upper leaves if present are similar and reduced in size as they go up the stem. Leaves emit a milky sap when broken.
Stems are 20 to 40 cm tall, stiff, wiry, smooth, and often branched.
It is found most commonly in cooler to temperate areas of many countries. Often found in drier areas as its deep taproot tends to give it drought resistance. It tolerates a wide range in soil types, texture and pH. Grows mainly on sandy to sandy clay loam red and red brown earths; also on shallow stony soils of hillsides, less frequent on grey clay soils. It does not however tolerate poorly drained soils. It is most often found in pastures, cultivation, lawns, disturbed areas, roadsides and waste places.
Young leaves are edible either fresh or cooked.
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