Smooth Hawk’s-beard

Often found on bare ground and road verges, as well as on heaths and grasslands, the yellow flowers of Smooth Hawk’s-beard can be seen brightening The Lizard from mid-summer until early autumn.
Photo: Steve Townsend

Scientific name: Crepis capillaris

Conservation status: No designations

This widespread annual (sometimes biennial) member of the Daisy family (Asteraceae) is usually found colonising bare ground, heaths and short grassland: its vivid small (c. 1 cm across) yellow flowerheads, often tinged red beneath, can be seen brightening up road verges and disturbed ground between June and September. Smooth Hawk’s-beard is a native of Europe but has been introduced in other areas, including North America. It is one of the six native members of the genus found in Great Britain and Ireland.

Growing up to 80 cm tall, Smooth Hawk’s-beard, unlike most other common Crepis spp., is more-or-less hairless, other than on the outer surface of its bracts. It has long pinnatifid glossy basal leaves, with smaller, pointed upper leaves with no stalks. The bracts form two rows beneath the flowerhead, with those in the outer row being shorter, and those in the inner being longer and more erect.

Did you know…?

…the genus name Crepis, which globally contains some 200 species, is derived from the Greek word for ‘shoe’, but no-one knows why it was given this name. The common name Hawk’s-beard is thought to derive from the bristly hairs that form the pappus on top of the fruit, although this feature is not unique to this genus within the Daisy family

…like others in the large Asteraceae family, Smooth Hawk’s-beard is what is termed a ‘composite’. This means that each ‘petal’ on its flowerhead is in fact a separate flower.

More information and references:

Rose, F. and O’Reilly, C., 2006. The Wild Flower Key, 2nd edition. Frederick Warne, London.

Stace, C., 2010. New Flora of the British Isles, 3rd edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Published: July 2013
Author: Amanda Scott
Photos: Steve Townsend