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Chickory
Cichorium intybus

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Chickory

Chickory is an introduced alien plant - I hesitate to say "weed". It grows abundantly along our lowland roads, sometimes in such profusion it's downright distracting. Look for the beautiful, mirage-like haze along the roadsides from midsummer through early autumn. "Weeds" are usually defined as something undesireable. Dense stands of Chickory can be so beautiful I can't bring myself to wish them gone - but otherwise, Chickory qualifies as one of the toughest of roadside weeds. Dry them out in a drought, spray them with snow, sand, salt, and oil, mow them down every other week - but it keeps coming back. Chickory is a true glutton for punishment, and seems to thrive on it.  Chickory is a tough perennial - our only representative of the genus Cichorium, which is in turn a member of the vast Asteraceae family. I do not know when it arrived in ths country - but due to its longstanding reputation as a coffee additive (or substitute in hard times), I'm guessing it's been with us for at least 100 years. I don't know much about it but it is the roots that used to be dried, roasted and ground up to stretch the coffee supply. Chickory is fairly easy to distinguish from other local members of the Aster family. The flowers grow directly on the main flower stalk. The flowers (about 1-1/2" across) are larger than most other asters, and consist of a clear blue color, resembling sky blue far more than any other wild aster. The stalks of the plant appear stiff and crooked, with sparsely-placed sessile leaves. The petals are blunt-tipped and slightly fringed. The flowers open up with first morning light, and may be closed again long before the sun sets. For a breathtaking sight, drive along U.S. 70 east of Asheville in midsummer, around 8:00 or 9:00 in the morning . You won't be disappointed.

For information on Fall Asters, please follow this link to Late Purple Aster.

 

A note on the nomenclature (naming conventions) on this site: Scientific names and classifications are constantly being argued and changed, and it drives me nuts. Although I use many different sources for knowledge, for naming consistency  I  use the  "Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas" by Radford, Ahles and Bell, 1968 edition. This book is a well-established authority for the plants of our region and I've been using it for years. If for some reason I must use a different source for a particular plant, I will make note of it within the descriptive text. Don't like it? Tough!
 
fdudley@weaversites.com

Fiona Dudley
Weaversites
986 Reems Creek Road
Weaverville NC 28787

828-231-1501


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