This perennial wildflower forms a low rosette of basal leaves, from
which a flowering stalk develops that is ½-2½' tall. The basal leaves
are 2-6" long and ½-1" across; they are oblanceolate or elliptic-oblong
in shape, while their margins are smooth and ciliate. The upper surface
basal leaves is medium green and sparsely hairy, while the lower
surface is pale green and hairy. The flowering stalk is pale
green, terete, and unbranched; it has white hairs below and
glandular black hairs above. Sometimes there are 1-2 alternate leaves
along the lower half of its length. The alternate leaves are similar to
the basal leaves, except smaller in size. The flowering stalk
terminates in a dense cluster of 5-30 flowerheads. Each flowerhead is
½-¾" across, consisting of numerous yellow ray florets and their
reproductive organs. Individual petaloid rays are linear-oblong with 5
teeth at their truncate tips. At the base of each flowerhead, are
several floral bracts that are medium green and linear-oblong in shape;
they have glandular black hairs along their midveins. The branches of
the inflorescence are light green, terete, and glandular black-hairy.
The blooming period occurs from late spring to mid-summer for about 1
month. Afterwards, the florets are replaced by narrowly oblongoid
achenes about 1.5-2.0 mm. in length; the truncate upper tips of these
achenes have small tufts of white hair. The root system consists of a
taproot with either rhizomes or stolons. Occasionally, clonal offsets
develop to form small colonies of plants.
The preference is full or partial sun, mesic to dry
conditions, and slightly acidic sandy soil.
The non-native Field Hawkweed is rare
in NE Illinois and
largely absent from the rest of the state (see Distribution
It was introduced into North America from Europe. Habitats include dry
sand prairies, upland sandy savannas, sandy pastures, abandoned fields,
and waste areas. Sandy areas with a history of disturbance are
The flowerheads attract such visitors
bumblebees, other bees, butterflies, skippers, and Syrphid flies
(Eastman, 1999). These floral visitors are attracted by either the
nectar or pollen as a source of food. Hawkweeds (Hieracium spp.
suspected host plants of Schinia
(Bina Flower Moth). The larvae of
this moth feed on the flowerheads of many plants in the Aster family.
Vertebrate animals use hawkweeds as a source of food to a limited
extent. The Ruffed Grouse and Wild Turkey feed on young leaves and
seeds; a small songbird, the American Goldfinch, also eats the seeds.
The Cottontail Rabbit, White-Tailed Deer, and Elk browse on the bitter
foliage sparingly (Martin et al., 1951/1961). According to Georgia
(1907), cattle avoid consumption of non-native hawkweeds.
A sandy savanna at the Oak Openings Nature
Preserve in NW Ohio.
Field Hawkweed is one of several native and non-native hawkweeds
that can be found in Illinois. Like other non-native hawkweeds, this
species has primarily basal leaves and very few, if any, cauline
leaves. Field Hawkweed can be distinguished from other non-native
hawkweeds by its dense cluster of flowerheads and the presence of hair
on both sides of its basal leaves. Other non-native hawkweeds have
flowerheads that are more widely spread out, or their basal
leaves have hairs along the lower side only, or the branches
of their inflorescences lack glandular black hairs. One non-native
that is found in Illinois, Hieracium
(Orange Hawkweed), can
be readily distinguished by its orange flowerheads. Another scientific
name of Field Hawkweed is Hieracium
. This species is sometimes
referred to as 'King Devil' or 'Yellow King Devil.' These are old
farmer names that refer to its unwelcome persistence in pastures and