False Hawk’s Beard can have blossoms in all stages. False Hawk’s Beard is also known as: Crepis Japonica
These weedy little plants are popping up right now.
False Hawk’s Beard have little variations, and some are more or less bitter than the others, but they are found across North America, Europe and Asia. For such an edible group they are barely known. The Smooth Hawksbeard is found in most northern states; the Fiddle Leaf Hawksbeard is found along the Rocky Mountains through the United States into Canada; the Narrow Leaf Hawksbeard is found in the upper half of the United States and Canada; the Bristly Hawksbeard, is found in a smattering of states of no particular pattern; the Beaked Hawksbeard, is found along both coasts of the United States, and the Italian Hawksbeard, is found in California, and Europe. Each variation is found from about Pennsylvania south in to the South and west to Texas, also in Asia. What can be said of one, applies to the others and they are used in similar ways.
The primary use of the word “krepis” in English as “crepe” as in “crepe paper.” And indeed, the leaves are curled and wrinkled. The local Crepis, is native to Japan and China and was first mentioned in the United Sates in 1831. It is now found throughout the world, and in many places it grows year round.
There are about 200 Crepis worldwide and a couple of dozen in the United States. At least six are known to make a good potherb if not better than sow thistle and wild lettuce. The flavor is very mild — when picked young and tender. Granted, however, bitterness may vary among species.
As you can see by the photos, it’s a low rosette with a long and skinny flower stock topped by small, dandelion-like yellow flowers, which are rather distinctive. It can blossom, seed and drop old blossoms all at the same time. And, when in seed the Crepis blossom resembles a miniature puffy, slightly ratty dandelion, about one fifth the size.
It might be easy to overlook Crepis in some landscapes but it tends to grow in colonies so you’ll spot a small stand of tall stalks with yellow flowers. It likes grassy areas and does not tolerate mowing well. The roundish dandelion-like leaves are shiny above, soft and dull underneath if not downy. Sometimes some edges of the leaves are decorated with a little dark trim. Veins are pronounced in the leaves, which curl on the edge. “Hawksbeard” also tends to have the same growing season as sow thistle and wild lettuce.
While found as far north as Pennsylvania, it’s more common in the southern United States where it’s considered an invasive weed. It could also be considered a free beneficial crop, along with many other plants. In fact, one study found up to two-thirds of what we call weeds in an urban setting are edible. And let us not forget, any insect that likes a dandelion, such as a nectar-seeking bee, will find the Crepis familiar territory.
Despite its low profile, figuratively and literally, Crepis might have the last laugh. It has anticancer and antiviral “activities.” A 2003 study in China showed a hot water extract of Crepis Japonica inhibited cell proliferation and growth with human leukemia cells, mouse cancer cells, influenza, and A virus and herpes simplex type 1. An alcohol extract also worked but to a lesser degree. They think the “antiviral ingredients were likely to contain phenolic compounds including tannins….”
Not bad for a little weed that gets no respect.
The False Hawk’s Beard grows mostly in the Springtime, but can persist into warmer months in southern states and again in the fall through winter
This plant grows in Moist, semi-shaded to sunny areas, sandy to rich soil, likes grassy areas and unmaintained lawns.
The Young leaves can be eaten raw, better cooked as a potherb prepared as food by cooking in a pot, as spinach, or added as seasoning in cookery, as thyme. These are very mild when young, and remember to boil for 10 minutes or longer.