The genus Leontodon Linnaeus and Leontodon autumnalis Linnaeus

Remark The words or terms in red (actually dark orange) in the text are defined in a glossary.

The genus Leontodon Linnaeus

sep_17_12c.gthmb can't be loaded. Species belonging the Leontodon genus are annual or perennial plants that are from 10 to 80 cm tall. Their leaves are basal and pinnatifid. The cauline leaves are absent or reduced to small bracts. The flower heads are borne singly on the stems or in groups of 2 to 5 heads in a loose array. Their involucres are campanulate. They do not have disk florets and have from 20 to 30 yellow ray florets. The fruits are more or less cylindrical cypselae with longitudinal ribs; their pappus has 1 or 2 rows but sometimes is reduced to short scales. The number of chromosomes of the genus (x) is 4, 6 or 7, rarely 5 or 11.

The genus belongs to the Asteraceae family. Plants belonging to the Leontodon genus are somewhat simple to identify by their:

There are about 50 species in the genus, that are native to Europe, North Africa and western Asia. Of these 50 species, three are found in North America, as introduced plants, and only one is found in Québec, Leontodon autumnalis.

Leontodon autumnalis Linnaeus

Leontodon autumnalis is a perennial plant that has from one to twenty scapiform stems. It is native to Eurasia and widespread; it is common in grassland; it has been introduced in Québec. It is now well established in eastern North America but is sporadic in western North America. Its height is typically between 15 to 30 cm. It is one of the classic flowers of late summer. Some authors recognize two subspecies of Leontodon autumnalis: The roots of Leontodon autumnalis are many branched and do not go down deeply; it is then easily uprooted. Its flower stalks are tough and without milky sap unlike many other species of the Asteraceae family.


In classical Greek, λεων (leôn) of genitive λεοντοσ (leontos) is the lion and the prefix λεοντο- (leonto-) means of the lion. As for οδουσ (odous) of genitive, οδοντοσ (odontos) it is tooth and the prefix οδοντο- (odonto-) means about the tooth, so that Leontodon means with teeth like a lion and refers to the dentate leaves of the plants belonging to the Leontodon genus (although these teeth are nothing as impressive as the teeth of lions !).

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In Latin, autumnalis means of the autumn, the epithet refers then to the blooming period of Leontodon autumnalis.

Common names

Some of the vernacular names of Leontodon autumnalis are: Autumn-dandelion, Fall-dandelion, Fall Hawkbit and Fall Hawk's-bit. The Hawkbit English name derives from the medieval belief that hawks ate the plant to improve their eyesight. The French vernacular names are Léontodon automnal and Liondent d'automne where Liondent means Lion's tooth.


Leontodon autumnalis has also been known as:


Leontodon autumnalis is not to difficult to identify by its:

draw_a.jpg can't be loaded. Leontodon autumnalis may sometimes be mistaken for Taraxacum officinale, the common Dandelion, but the leaves of the former are finer and its lobes are symmetrical; furthermore, its flower stalks are not hollow and may be branched which is not the case of Taraxacum officinale; the scape of the later is hollow and it never branches. A more similar plant is Hypochaeris radicata (Cat's Ear), but the leaves and stems of the latter have fine hairs. An other similar plant is Krigia virginica (Dwarf Dandelion) but its flower stalks are unbranched and lack scale bracts; furthermore, its florets are never tinged with red.



Flower heads

The flower heads close up when pollinated and open again to release the seeds.



Leontodon autumnalis is tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions, wet and dry, and also withstands trampling. It is found in vacant lots, roadsides, fields, and other disturbed habitats.


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Leontodon autumnalis is found in most of Canada, southward in the eastern United States to Iowa in west and Virginia in the east. It is also known in the USA states on the Pacific coast, in British-Columbia and in the Northwest Territories in Canada, in the Saint-Pierre et Miquelon Islands and in Groenland.

The maps show the USA states, Canadian provinces and Territories, and other areas of North America where the plant can be found. The map on the left shows the distribution of Leontodon autumnalis ssp. autumnalis and the map on the right is for the distribution of Leontodon autumnalis ssp. pratensis.


The leaves of Leontodon autumnalis can be eaten in salads, but the leaves of Taraxacum officinale taste better.


The photos of the gallery were taken either with one of the following: Minolta DiMAGE 7, Canon PowerShot A530, Canon Xt Rebel, usually with the EF-S60mm f/2.8 Macro USM objective, Fujifilm A 610 and EPSON Perfection 1650 (scanner).

The title in the window shows the date when the picture was taken, i.e. jan_30_06... would mean that the photo was taken on the 30th of January, the 06 is for the 6th picture taken that day. The month, day and picture number might be followed by a letter which I use to identify the system used to take the picture.

Click on the thumbnails to get larger view. The original photos are usually in TIFF format, the photos shown are generally in JPEG format, often of dimensions one half (surface one quarter) for loading time reduction.


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sep_25_01s.mthmb cannot be loaded. The leaves were scanned at 300 dpi, this allows to measure the dimensions of the leaves.


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