P&PDL Picture of the Week for
March 30, 2009

The Short Story of Chicory

Glenn Nice, Weed Diagnostician, Dept of Botany & Plant Pathology, Purdue University

Spring is in the air!  So I felt it fitting to seek out images that reminded me of summer.  One thing that reminds me of summer is chicory, well and wood ticks, but I will let the entomologists cover that one.  Although not quite in the realm of the weed, chicory (Cichorium intybus L.) can often be found standing on the side of the road waving its blue flowers at us as we rush past.  In fact it can often be found in the oddest places, for instance growing out of cracks in the concrete in urban areas.  It is always impressive to see its bright blue flowers beside your car when waiting at a red light.  It can also find its way into pastures and turf grass.

Chicory, also known as succor, blue sailors, blue daisy, bunk and coffee-weed [1], is a perennial that can resemble dandelion when in a basal rosette.  The two are in the same family and both have a milky sap.  This sap can be an irritant to individuals that are sensitive.  When the plant produces flowering stems they are erect and hollow with alternate lanceolate leaves.  The flowering stems can give the impression that they may be leafless, but those flowers are a giveaway.

Flowers appear from late June to October.  In Indiana, they are most often blue.  The flowers are also reported to be pink, purple, or white [1].  The ray flowers, that which gives chicory its color, all have apex that appear tattered looking due to distinctive serrations.

Chicory has a history being a useful plant.  The leaves have been eaten, but warning is given that, like dandelion, young leaves be used [2].  The roots are used before the plant blooms, sometimes eaten fresh or boiled.  The ground roots are still used as seasoning [2].  Chicory has been reported to have been used for medicinal qualities [3,4].  However, chicory’s most notable contribution is as an additive to coffee; hence the common name coffee-weed.  It may not be a surprise that Indiana has its share of chicory on our roadways, for our Northerly neighbor, Michigan was reported to be one of the largest producers of chicory at one time.  In 1880, it was reported that over 14 million pounds of chicory was imported from Europe, but due to imposed tariffs in the late 1900’s a grass roots production flourished.  By 1899, 92% of the chicory was grown in Michigan equaling over 19 million pounds [4].

In a pasture situation both Forefront at 32 to 42 fl oz/A or Cimarron Max at 0.5 oz/A part A and 2 pt/A part B have excellent activity on chicory.  Curtail, Stinger, Crossbow, and 2,4-D also have good activity.

1. Uva, R.H., J.C. Neal, and J.M. DiTomaso.  Weeds of the Northeast.  Cornell University Press.  p. 130.

2. Mitich, L.W.  1993.  Chicory.  Weed Technology 7:274-277.

3. Coon, N.  1974.  The Dictionary of Useful Plants.  Rodale Press. p 106.

4. Stilgenbauer, F.A.  1931.  Chicory: Michigan’s Infant Monopoly Crop.  Economic Geography.  7:84-100.

Click image to enlage

chicory on roadside

bee on chicory

chicory flower

Purdue Plant & Pest Diagnostic Lab Purdue Cooperative Extension Service