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Hawkweed Oxtongue

Picris hieracioides

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Asteraceae (Daisy)
Also in this family:
Alpine Blue Sow-thistle, Alpine Cotula, Alpine Fleabane, Alpine Saw-wort, Annual Ragweed, Annual Sunflower, Argentine Fleabane, Autumn Hawkbit, Autumn Oxeye, Beaked Hawksbeard, Beggarticks, Bilbao Fleabane, Black Knapweed, Black-eyed Susan, Blanketflower, Blue Fleabane, Blue Globe-thistle, Bristly Oxtongue, Broad-leaved Cudweed, Broad-leaved Ragwort, Brown Knapweed, Butterbur, Buttonweed, Cabbage Thistle, Canadian Fleabane, Canadian Goldenrod, Carline Thistle, Chalk Knapweed, Chamois Ragwort, Changing Michaelmas Daisy, Chicory, Chinese Mugwort, Chinese Ragwort, Coltsfoot, Common Blue Sow-thistle, Common Cat's-ear, Common Cudweed, Common Daisy, Common Dandelion, Common Fleabane, Common Goldenrod, Common Groundsel, Common Michaelmas Daisy, Common Mugwort, Common Ragwort, Common Wormwood, Coneflower, Confused Michaelmas Daisy, Corn Chamomile, Corn Marigold, Cornflower, Cotton Thistle, Cottonweed, Creeping Thistle, Daisy Bush, Dwarf Cudweed, Dwarf Thistle, Early Goldenrod, Eastern Groundsel, Eastern Leopardsbane, Elecampane, English Hawkweed, Fen Ragwort, Feverfew, Field Fleawort, Field Wormwood, Fox and Cubs, French Tarragon, Gallant Soldier, Garden Lettuce, Giant Butterbur, Glabrous-headed Hawkweed, Glandular Globe-thistle, Glaucous Michaelmas Daisy, Globe Artichoke, Globe-thistle, Goat's Beard, Golden Ragwort, Golden Samphire, Goldilocks Aster, Grass-leaved Goldenrod, Great Lettuce, Greater Burdock, Greater Knapweed, Grey-headed Hawkweed, Guernsey Fleabane, Hairless Blue Sow-thistle, Hairless Leptinella, Hairy Michaelmas Daisy, Harpur Crewe's Leopardsbane, Heath Cudweed, Heath Groundsel, Hemp Agrimony, Highland Cudweed, Hoary Mugwort, Hoary Ragwort, Hybrid Knapweed, Intermediate Burdock, Irish Fleabane, Jersey Cudweed, Jerusalem Artichoke, Lance-leaved Hawkweed, Lavender-cotton, Leafless Hawksbeard, Least Lettuce, Leopardplant, Leopardsbane, Leptinella, Lesser Burdock, Lesser Hawkbit, Lesser Sunflower, London Bur-marigold, Magellan Ragwort, Marsh Cudweed, Marsh Hawksbeard, Marsh Ragwort, Marsh Sow-thistle, Marsh Thistle, Meadow Thistle, Melancholy Thistle, Mexican Fleabane, Milk Thistle, Mountain Everlasting, Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Musk Thistle, Narrow-leaved Cudweed, Narrow-leaved Hawkweed, Narrow-leaved Michaelmas Daisy, Narrow-leaved Ragwort, New England Hawkweed, New Zealand Holly, Nipplewort, Nodding Bur-marigold, Northern Hawksbeard, Norwegian Mugwort, Oxeye Daisy, Oxford Ragwort, Pearly Everlasting, Perennial Cornflower, Perennial Ragweed, Perennial Sow-thistle, Perennial Sunflower, Pineapple Mayweed, Plantain-leaved Leopardsbane, Ploughman's Spikenard, Plymouth Thistle, Pontic Blue Sow-thistle, Pot Marigold, Prickly Lettuce, Prickly Sow-thistle, Purple Coltsfoot, Rayed Tansy, Red Star Thistle, Red-seeded Dandelion, Red-tipped Cudweed, Robin's Plantain, Roman Chamomile, Rough Cocklebur, Rough Hawkbit, Rough Hawksbeard, Russian Lettuce, Safflower, Salsify, Saw-wort, Scented Mayweed, Scentless Mayweed, Sea Aster, Sea Mayweed, Sea Wormwood, Seaside Daisy, Shaggy Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Shaggy Soldier, Shasta Daisy, Shetland Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Shrub Ragwort, Sicilian Chamomile, Silver Ragwort, Slender Mugwort, Slender Thistle, Small Cudweed, Small Fleabane, Smooth Cat's-ear, Smooth Hawksbeard, Smooth Sow-thistle, Sneezeweed, Sneezewort, Spear Thistle, Spotted Cat's-ear, Spotted Hawkweed, Sticky Groundsel, Stinking Chamomile, Stinking Hawksbeard, Tall Fleabane, Tall Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Tansy, Thin-leaved Sunflower, Trifid Bur-marigold, Tuberous Thistle, Tyneside Leopardplant, Viper's Grass, Wall Lettuce, Welsh Groundsel, Welted Thistle, White Butterbur, White Buttons, Willdenow's Leopardsbane, Winter Heliotrope, Wood Burdock, Wood Ragwort, Woody Fleabane, Woolly Thistle, Yarrow, Yellow Chamomile, Yellow Fox and Cubs, Yellow Oxeye, Yellow Star Thistle, Yellow Thistle, York Groundsel
Life Cycle:
Biennial or Perennial
Maximum Size:
1 metre tall
Fields, grassland, hedgerows, meadows, roadsides, wasteland.

Yellow, many petals
Flower clusters consist of 3 to 6 deep yellow flowers. 5 stamens. Pollinated by flies and bees.
A dandelion-like fruit which consists of a seed and a ring of feathery, whitish hairs at one end.
A perennial flower species normally found in chalky or limestone grassland. The leaves are lance-shaped and wavy-edged. The lower stems are sometimes reddish and the branches are often at right-angles to one another. Hairy.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Other Information


Picris hieracioides, commonly known as hawkweed ox-tongue, is a species of flowering plant in the daisy family. It is native to Europe and Asia and has been introduced to parts of North America. The plant has yellow flowers and is often found in dry, grassy habitats such as roadsides and fields. It is considered an invasive species in some areas.


Hawkweed Oxtongue, also known as Picris hieracioides, is a perennial plant that belongs to the Asteraceae family. This plant is native to Europe and Asia, and it has been introduced to many other parts of the world, including North America, where it is considered an invasive species.

Description and Characteristics

Hawkweed Oxtongue is a relatively tall plant that can grow up to 3 feet (1 meter) in height. The stem of the plant is rough and hairy and has a reddish color near the base. The leaves of the plant are long, narrow, and pointed, resembling an ox's tongue, hence the common name. The leaves grow in a rosette at the base of the stem, and there are fewer leaves as the stem grows taller. The plant produces small, yellow flowers that bloom from June to September.

Habitat and Distribution

Hawkweed Oxtongue grows in a wide range of habitats, including meadows, roadsides, disturbed areas, and waste places. It prefers sunny locations with well-drained soils. This plant is native to Europe and Asia but has been introduced to many other parts of the world, including North America, where it is considered an invasive species.

Invasive Species

Hawkweed Oxtongue is considered an invasive species in North America because it has the ability to outcompete native plants, reduce biodiversity, and alter ecosystems. The plant spreads rapidly and can form dense monocultures, making it difficult for other plants to grow. Additionally, Hawkweed Oxtongue produces a chemical that inhibits the growth of other plants, further contributing to its invasive nature.

Control and Management

The control and management of Hawkweed Oxtongue can be challenging. The plant has a deep taproot that makes it difficult to remove by hand, and it can regrow from small root fragments left in the soil. Herbicides can be effective in controlling the plant, but they can also harm other plants in the area. The best approach to managing Hawkweed Oxtongue is to prevent its spread by avoiding the movement of soil or plant material that may contain seeds or root fragments.


Despite its invasive nature, Hawkweed Oxtongue has some traditional medicinal uses. The plant contains compounds that have been used to treat digestive problems, skin conditions, and respiratory issues. However, the use of this plant for medicinal purposes is not recommended due to the potential for toxicity.

In conclusion, Hawkweed Oxtongue is an invasive species that has the potential to cause significant ecological damage. It is important to prevent the spread of this plant and to take measures to control its growth where it has already become established. While it has some traditional medicinal uses, the potential for toxicity means that it should not be used for this purpose.

Additional Information

Hawkweed Oxtongue is also known to be a food source for some animals. The plant's leaves and flowers are edible and are eaten by rabbits, deer, and some birds. However, the plant's toxicity and invasive nature mean that it is not a recommended food source for humans.

In addition to its ecological impacts, Hawkweed Oxtongue can also have economic impacts. It can reduce the productivity of agricultural land and increase the cost of control and management for landowners and government agencies.

Efforts to control the spread of Hawkweed Oxtongue have been made in many parts of the world. These efforts include public education campaigns, manual removal, and herbicide application. Biological control methods, such as the use of insects that feed on the plant, are also being explored as a potential means of controlling the plant's spread.

In some cultures, Hawkweed Oxtongue has been used as a dye plant. The flowers can be used to produce a yellow dye, while the leaves and stems can produce a green dye. However, the use of this plant for dyeing is not recommended due to its invasive nature and potential toxicity.

Hawkweed Oxtongue is also being studied for its potential as a phytoremediation plant. Phytoremediation is a process by which plants are used to remove pollutants from the soil and water. Hawkweed Oxtongue has been found to have the ability to absorb heavy metals from contaminated soils, making it a potential candidate for phytoremediation projects.

It's important to note that there are other plant species that resemble Hawkweed Oxtongue, such as yellow hawkweed (Hieracium caespitosum) and orange hawkweed (Pilosella aurantiaca). These plants are also invasive species and can be easily mistaken for Hawkweed Oxtongue. It's important to correctly identify these plants to ensure effective control measures are taken.

In addition to its impacts on the environment, Hawkweed Oxtongue can also have human health impacts. The plant contains a toxin called lactucopicrin, which can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions in some people. Ingesting the plant can also cause gastrointestinal distress, including vomiting and diarrhea. Therefore, it's important to avoid contact with the plant and to properly wash hands after handling it.

Another impact of Hawkweed Oxtongue is on cultural and recreational activities. The plant can reduce the aesthetic value of natural areas and can make outdoor activities, such as hiking and camping, more difficult. Invasive species like Hawkweed Oxtongue can also have negative impacts on cultural resources, such as traditional harvesting and cultural practices of Indigenous communities.

One important aspect of controlling the spread of invasive species like Hawkweed Oxtongue is early detection and rapid response. This involves monitoring areas where the plant is likely to establish and identifying new infestations as soon as possible. This allows for a quick response to prevent the spread of the plant and reduce its impact on the environment and human activities.

In conclusion, Hawkweed Oxtongue is a problematic plant species that can have significant impacts on the environment, human health, and cultural and recreational activities. Efforts to control its spread and manage its growth are necessary to protect native ecosystems and prevent economic losses. Early detection and rapid response are crucial to prevent the establishment and spread of this invasive plant species.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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