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Lapsana communis - Nipplewort

Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Equisetopsida - Order: Asterales - Family: Asteraceae

Nipplewort, Closeup og flowers

Nipplewort gets its common name from the shape of its flower buds. In gardens this wildflower often colonises cultivated soil but, being shallow rooting, it is fairly easy to eradicate. This plant is usually an annual but it can also be a short-lived perennial.

Description

Nipplewort is one numerous yellow, dandelion-like flowers, but its tall wiry stature - plants are commonly a metre tall and sometimes rather more - is a distinguishing feature as also are the small flowers and the nipple-like buds. The flower heads are arranged in loose panicle, each compound ‘flower’ comprises typicaly 8 to 15 pale-yellow rayed florets, which are often, although incorrectly, referred to as petals. Unlike other dandelion lookalikes, a Nipplewort flower head does not develop into a white pappus of parachute-like seeds. The fruits of this plant are yellowish- brown achenes typically 4mm long.

Fruits of Nipplewort

Above: the basket-like fruits (achenes) of Nipplewort each contain many seeds.

Stems are uoright and loosely branching.with leaves alternate up the stems. The lowest leaves, which are unlobed, are stalked, while upper leaves are either short-stalked or stalkless; the leaves have toothed margins.

Habitat

Although commonly seen on wasteland, Nipplewort also colonises hedges, roadside banks and other damp and shady places.

Nipplewort beside a farm field gate

Distribution

This plant, which is native to Europe and southwest Asia, is common throughout Britain and Ireland. Nipplewort has become naturalised in many other parts of the world including North America.

Flowers of Nipplewort, Lapsana communis

Blooming times

In Britain and Ireland the delicate composite flowers of Nipplewort appear from early June onwards. The flowers open during sunny days but they remain closed up during bad weather.

Nipplewort, Lapsana communis, in Wales

The plants shown on this page were photographed in Wales UK during June and July.


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