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Nipplewort is known by a few common names depending on where you live. It is known as Succory Dock Cress, Dock Cress, Nippleweed, and Common Nipplewort. Its Latin name, lapsana means Charlock (wild mustard) which this species can resemble from a distance. Historically, this plant was used to help soothe irritations caused by breastfeeding, hence its common name, Nipplewort. Lapsana communis is in the Asteraceae family and is native to Europe and southwestern Asia. It has naturalized in many countries in the northern and southern hemispheres. This plant is usually an annual but it can also be a short-lived perennial. One plant can produce 400 to 800 seeds, and those seeds can remain viable for six years.
The stem is usually multi-branched giving it a very distinct appearance when mature. As this plant grows an untrained eye may see this as garlic mustard but upon close examination of the leaves it is clearly not garlic mustard. Once brached, one dime-sized flower grows per branch that looks like a miniature dandelion.
Pale yellow flowers grow about 1cm (0.4") wide and are circled by involucral bracts. One plant may have up to 15 flowerheads that open from a nipple-shaped bud. Each flower has ray florets that have serrated tips. Flowers occur from May to September (in the northern hemisphere) depending on geographic region. Flowers open in good weather, remaining closed on rainy days.
Leaves grow alternate with one leaf per node along the stem. Young growth appears as a rosette of thin, green leaves that are elongated with a rounded terminal lobe and one to four side lobes. Once mature, leaves have one large lobe with smaller lobes below the large one. On the upper stem, the somewhat resemble garlic mustard with narrow and pointed leaves that lack basal lobes.
This plant, on average, grows anywhere from 30cm to 1 metre (12 to 36").
Nipplewort grows in lawns, roadsides, fields, gardens, and in waste areas. It grows in Europe, Asia, Australia, parts of South America, throughout Canada and most of the US (including Hawaii and Alaska).
Leaves and young shoots are edible either raw or cooked. Like many other plants, they are best used before it flowers. Having an almost radish-like taste, these leaves are great additions to salads, soups, sauteed, etc.
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