Invasive Plants, Pacific Northwest
Hairy Cats Ear is well known on the southern coast, many a gardener has cursed them at one time or another. Hairy cat’s ear is a perennial plant with rough, hairy lobed leaves that grow to 15cm long, it is a low lying edible herb or weed found in lawns, gardens and fields. The plant is native to Europe, but has also been introduced to the Americas, Japan, Australia and New Zealand where most consider it to be an invasive weed.
The leaves form a low lying, ground hugging, rosette around a central taproot and often grows in patches, the plant is an aggressive weed that is difficult to control and eradicate. Forked stems up to 60 cm high carry up to 7 bright yellow flower heads that are about 4cm in diameter, and when mature these form seeds very similar to the dandelion. All parts of the plant exude a milky sap when cut.
Hairy cat’s ear can be controlled by cultivation although this increases the chance of spreading the seeds so the best control option is to pull the weeds in early spring as soon as the leaves emerge and before the seeds have formed. My wife uses a weed puller in the spring and we only get a few of these plants at any time during the summer, which makes it easy to control them.
Also known as false dandelion, because of its close resemblance to true dandelions. Both plants have similar flowers which mature to form wind blown seeds. However, Cat’s Ear flowering stems are forked and solid, whereas those of Dandelions are un-forked stems and hollow. The leaves of dandelions are jagged or toothed in appearance, whereas those of cat’s ear are more lobe shaped and hairy. All parts of the cat’s ear plant are edible with the leaves and roots most often harvested.
The root can be roasted and ground to form a coffee substitute, however having never eaten this plant myself, I would recommend you learn all you can about this plant before ingesting it. You should do this for all plants.