Dandelion and the Look-alikes

How to tell dandelion apart among other similar looking non-poisonous plants:
dandelion in my garden

I was asked several times at markets how to tell the ‘true dandelion’Taraxacum officinale apart from the ‘false dandelions’ .

First the good news: none of the look-alikes are poisonous, all are edible and/or medicinal. Apparently, dandelion is the tastiest of them all, but I haven’t tried the others.

The ‘false dandelions’ all belong to the asteraceae family. Plants which looks similar: Cat’s ear species (Hypochoeri spp.), Chicory (Chicorium intybus), shepherd’s purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris) and hawkweed species (Hieracium spp).

 You don’t have to know all the details of every of the mentioned plants it is enough to know that dandelion

  • is the only of these plants with a hollow stem,
  • the only one which has a milky sap in the stem,
  • dandelion has no hairs on the leaves or stems,
  • there are no leaves on the stems and the stems are not branched,
  • although the shape of the teeth is very variable, dandelion has pointed edges and the teeth are pointing to the centre of the plant,
  • there is always one flower on one stalk,

Dandelion is bitterer after the plant flowers, if the plant is stressed, the soil is poor or there if is little water.

Here are pictures of the ‘false dandelions” (which are all not of the genus Taraxacum.and thus no dandelions):

Cat’s ear species (Hypochoeri spp.)

cat's ear

Chicory (Chicorium intybus)

chicory, wild

Shepherd’s purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris)

sheperd's purse

Hawkweed species (Hieracium spp)


 Of each genus mentioned, there are several species in South-East  Australia.

I really do sell dandelion plants, because if you don’t have them you want them!

Share if  you like it!

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email
Share on print

More Posts:

3 thoughts on “Dandelion and the Look-alikes”

  1. You’ll also find other “dandelions” which belong to the genus of Agoseris (A. grandiflora, A. glauca, etc.). Whilst some might call them dandelions, their real names include the genus though they closely resemble dandelions.

  2. I found this page, because I had a plant in my yard that looks A LOT like dandelion when it is small. Apparently from reading your article, this is chicory, as it grows a delicate blue flower when it gets a little bigger. I was wanting to add dandelion leaves to a soup and was concerned that this look-alike may be poisonous. However, you’re saying it’s not. I actually transplanted the plants and the flowers fell off. I’m going to wait until they flower to more positively identify them as chicory, then I could add them to soups as well 🙂


Leave a comment

3 × 5 =