Chicory – a great roadside wildflower

Chicory flowers - photo by Marcia Moore

Chicory (Cichorium intybus) is a striking wildflower on display this month.  It is a common roadside weed that grows so densely sometimes that it looks as if it was planted. 

There is a stretch of 38th St. near the parking area by the basketball sculpture at the Art and Nature Park that really looks this way.  Maybe the early spring and cities cutting back on mowing schedules has led to the increased visibility of Chicory this year.  It often grows with Queen Anne’s lace, a really nice roadside combination.

Chicory flowering head - photo by Marcia Moore

It has long been one of my favorite wildflowers/weeds.  A member of the sunflower family, it has composite flowering heads that are all ray flowers, no disc flowers.  Each head is only open for a day.  The color is a rare light purple/blue – even the anthers and pollen.  Plants are perennials with a milky sap.

This plant is introduced to our area. Chicory is found in cities all over the globe, probably due to its usefulness as a coffee substitute or extender and as forage for livestock.  Dried roots are still used in coffee in New Orleans.  C. intybus is sometimes grown as a salad green.  Curly endive is a related species of Cichorium.

Chicory along a roadside - photo by Marcia Morre

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