Cichorium intybus L.

Synonyms -

Family: - Asteraceae


Cichorium is the Greco Latin name or from the Arabic for Chicory.

Intybus is Latin for Endive, the old name for Chicory.

Other Names:

Belgium Endive

Groundsel Bush


Witloof comes from it name as a European vegetable


A blue flowered perennial herb that exudes a milky sap when damaged and has a basal rosette of long, leaves with backward pointing lobes. It has tall, somewhat bare, rigid and grooved branching stems that carry daisy like flowers in spring.



Two. Round to club shaped. Tip indented. Base tapered. Short petiole. Hairless.

First leaves:

Alternate, pale green, glossy, spear shaped, forming a rosette. Margins shallowly and irregularly lobed. Petioles narrowly winged with a few soft hairs.


Form a rosette. Exude white sap when damaged.

Stipules -

Petiole - Short on lower leaves, none on upper leaves.

Blade - Dark green, shiny, spear shaped. 70-300 mm long by10-120 mm wide. Edges deeply lobed and pointing towards the base and rough to touch. The lobes are toothed. Tip round pointed. Long glandular hairs on upper and lower surface that are rough to touch and becoming hairless.

Stem leaves - Small, 12-60 mm long by 3-25 mm wide, lobed or with a few teeth or smooth edged. Upper ones clasping and grading into leafy bracts below flowering branches.


Flower stem - Erect, rigid, angular, striped, finely grooved, branched near the top, semi naked to 1500 mm tall and sometimes tangled. Exudes milky sap when damaged. Rough to touch with glandular hairs or becoming hairless.

Flower head:

Oblong to cup shaped, single, 10-14 mm long by 4-10 mm diameter or small groups of 2-3 flowers in leaf axils along the stem. Flowers on the ends of swollen, hollow stems(peduncles) arising from leaf axils or stalkless in the axils of these peduncles or stalkless and in the leaf axils along the branches. 8 inner bracts that are broadly egg shaped, hairy edged with pale hard bases and 2-3 times longer than the 5 much shorter outer bracts that are erect, green and hairy.


Bisexual florets.

Ovary -

Style - Blue

Receptacle - More or less flat with scaly towards the centre.

Petals - (Ray florets) Blue or occasionally whitish or pinkish, many, up to 12 mm long. Tip with 5 teeth. Usually withered by midday.

Stamens -

Anthers - Blue.




Dark brown to black and often mottled, ribbed, 4 angled, slightly compressed achene, 2-3 mm long. Tip flat with very short pappus or crown of tiny scales Edges rounded. Base rounded to flat.


Stout, long, fleshy tap root that contains latex.

Key Characters:

Exude milky sap when damaged.

Leaves alternate or radical

Flowers blue, all bisexual, all ligulate.

Ligules (petals) mostly shortly 5 toothed at the summit.

Style with plano convex branches attenuated toward the summit, bearing stigmatic papillae on the whole of the inner side and well developed collecting hairs on the outside down to below the place where the branches fork.

Anthers acute or acuminate at the base

Receptacle bristly towards the centre

Pappus a crown of short scales.

Adapted from John Black, Nancy Burbidge and Nick Lander


Life cycle:

Perennial. Seeds germinate from autumn to spring. Grows mainly in spring and early summer and starts flowering in late spring



By seed.

Flowering times:

November to May in SA.

Summer to Autumn in Western NSW.

November to April in Perth

November to May in WA

December to March in New Zealand.

Seed Biology and Germination:

Vegetative Propagules:

Pieces of tap root can produce new plants.



Population Dynamics and Dispersal:

Spread by seed and regrowth from taproot and taproot fragments.

Origin and History:

Europe, Temperate Asia, North Africa.




Occurs often as single plants or in small colonies.




Grey heavy clays, red loamy soils in areas receiving extra moisture.

Calcareous soils.

Plant Associations:



Fodder. Leaves cooked as a vegetable or used in salad. Roots are roasted and crushed for medicinal use and mixing with coffee or as a coffee substitute.

Sown as a medicinal fodder for animals.


Weed of roadsides, disturbed areas, irrigated areas and occasionally crops.

Taints milk and butter


Toxic to pigs.


Chronic convulsions and enteritis.


Don't feed to pigs.



Management and Control:

Grazing normally provides control.


Eradication strategies:

Small areas my be controlled with a mixture of 100 mL Lontrel® plus 200 mL Tordon 75-D® in 100 L of water and sprayed until just wet. This mix will also kill legumes and other broadleaf plants but has little effect on grasses.

Herbicide resistance:

None reported.

Biological Control:

Related plants:

Endive (Cichorium endivia) is used as a salad vegetable.

Plants of similar appearance:

Sea Lavenders (Limonium species) are superficially similar but have clusters of purple flowers with a white or yellow centre.

Skeleton Weed (Chondrilla juncea) has yellow flowers.


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Cunningham, G.M., Mulham, W.E., Milthorpe, P.L. and Leigh, J.H. (1992). Plants of Western New South Wales. (Inkata Press, Melbourne). P714. Photo.

Everist, S.L. (1974). Poisonous Plants of Australia. (Angus and Robertson, Sydney).

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Lazarides, M. and Cowley, K. and Hohnen, P. (1997). CSIRO handbook of Australian Weeds. (CSIRO, Melbourne). #248.2.

Marchant et al (1987). Flora of the Perth Region. (Western Australian Herbarium, Department of Agriculture, Western Australia). P670.

Moerkerk, M.R. and Barnett, A.G. (1998). More Crop Weeds. R.G. and F.J. Richardson, Melbourne. P57. Diagrams. Photos.

Randall, J.M. and Marinelli, J. (1996) Invasive Plants. (Brooklyn Botanic Gardens Inc. Brooklyn). P. Photo.

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