Cats Ear Flowers
l by Dr. Lalith Gunasekera
(November 26, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) My recent visit to Horton Plains in Sri Lanka allowed me to investigate some of the alien invasive plants lurking in this area and the Central Mountain Region of the country. One of the invasive plant species exclusive to cooler weather conditions found in Horton Plains and surrounding area. It’s common name is Cat’s ear or flat weed, botanical name – HYPOCHOERIS RADICATA and the family Asteraceae. This species originated in Europe and commonly find in people’s home gardens, nature reserves, grasslands and vacant lands in Southern Australia and New Zealand. Horton plains and surrounding area is well suited to the growth and development of cat’s ear plant. It can be devastated in smothering pasture and grasslands in our central mountain region specially in Horton plain grasslands and Ambewela area. It is very important to recognise this plant early and remove it before seed setting (just after flowering) as it has not much spread in the country as Katu-gas. Cat’s ear plant introduced to Sri Lankan highlands by the British during their colonial era as an ornamental plant for home gardens.
Cats Ear Leaves
Features of the plant:
• The perennial plant has flat leaves on the ground. Stems can be grown up to 80 cm tall.
• Leaves 2-30 cm long and 10-40 mm wide.
• Leaf margins are toothed to slightly lobed.
• Leaf surfaces are rough and covered in stiff hairs. Leaves emit a milk sap when broken.
• Flower heads are solitary on branched stems. The flower stalks also emit a milky sap when broken.
• Flower heads are 20-30 mm across on leafless and slightly scaly stems with 2-7 flowers on each stalk. Flowers are bright yellow.
• Fruit is an achene (dry one seeded), 8-17 mm long with a long beak and hairs. Mainly spread by wind.