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Native Wildflowers of the North Dakota Grasslands

JPG -- species photo

Stemless False Dandelion (Microseris cuspidata)

All but the northeastern corner of North Dakota provides habitat for stemless false dandelion. Elsewhere, the plant can be found from Wisconsin and Illinois west to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains at elevations below 6,500 ft.

Stemless false dandelion is a taprooted scapose perennial with milky juice. Scapes are leafless stems arising from ground level. The common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), an introduced plant, also bears its flower heads on scapes. The wavy-margined leaves of stemless false dandelion, a native species, are all basal and about 4 to 8 inches long and less than an inch wide. Leaves have a thick line of hairs along the edges. The yellow flower heads are about an inch long and have ray flowers, but no disc flowers. The air-borne fruits are very similar to those of the common dandelion.

Look for stemless false dandelion in early May on dry, lightly-grazed native pastures, especially those with loose, gravelly soil. One Australian Microseris is used for food by the aborigines, but I could find no reference to economic use of stemless false dandelion.

The false dandelions are members of the sunflower family (Asteraceae). Aster means "star" in Greek; the name is an allusion to the radiate arrangement of flowers into heads. These are often mistaken for a single flower by laypersons. The family contains over 15,000 species, more than in any other family in North Dakota as well as most countries in the North Temperate Zone. The generic name Microseris was compounded from the Greek mikros, "little," and seris, "chicory." Cuspidata means "with a cusp" in botanical Latin, likely in reference to the sharp-pointed bracts on the flower heads. Stemless false dandelion was first described under another genus by the famous German botanist Frederick Pursh who was the first to publish on the many new plants collected by the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804-1806. The plant was later described under its accepted name by another eminent German botanist and student of the flora of the Upper Rhine, Karl Heinrich Schultz (1805-1867), Bipontinus of Zweibrucken.

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