The genus Leontodon Linnaeus
and Leontodon autumnalis Linnaeus
The words or terms in red
(actually dark orange) in the text are defined in a
The genus Leontodon Linnaeus
Species belonging the
Leontodon genus are
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
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
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
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.
- basal rosettes of pinnatifid leaves;
- stems that look somewhat like scape;
- yellow ligulate florets.
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
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.
- Leontodon autumnalis ssp. autumnalis with several
flower-heads per stem,
- Leontodon autumnalis ssp. pratensis with
fewer flower heads and long, often dark hairs on the stems.
In classical Greek,
(leôn) of genitive
(leontos) is the lion and the prefix
(leonto-) means of the lion.
(odous) of genitive,
(odontos) it is tooth and the prefix
(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 !).
In Latin, autumnalis means of the autumn, the
epithet refers then to the blooming period of
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:
- Apargia autumnalis (L.) Hoffm.
- Hieracium oporinum E. H. L. Krause in Sturm
- Leontodon autumnalis L. var. pratensis W. D. J. Koch
- Leontodon linkii Wallr.
- Leontodon pratensis (W. D. J. Koch) Rchb.
- Oporinia autumnalis (L.) D. Don
- Virea autumnalis (L.) Gray var. pratensis
(W. D. J. Koch) House
Leontodon autumnalis is not to difficult to identify by its:
- usually branched stems, with small scale-like
on the stems, especially near the top;
- deep yellow ray florets
- rosette of basal leaves and its
lack of cauline leaves.
Leontodon autumnalis may sometimes be mistaken for
Taraxacum officinale, the common Dandelion,
but the leaves of the former are finer and its
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
(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.
- narrowly oblanceolate;
to deeply dentate or
- from 4 to 35 cm long and from 0.5 to 4 cm wide;
- with the base gradually tapering into a winged stalk.
The flower heads close up when pollinated and open again to release the seeds.
- from 2 to 5 per stem, in loose,
- from 1 to 3.5 cm in diameter;
- with a campanulate involucre taller than wide;
- with 20 to 30 yellow rays florets, at times tinted with red beneath;
they are about 1.5 cm long;
- the florets with a squared and
serrated tip, and with
- with about 20 phyllaries that
are about one cm long.
- pollinated by a variety of insects,
including bees and butterflies, especially late in the season, since
the plant is a good late nectar
- blooming from July to October in my area, 25 km north of Montréal.
- a yellowish cypsela;
- with a plumose pappus.
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.
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.
The leaves were scanned at 300 dpi,
this allows to measure the dimensions of the leaves.