Cat's-ear is a native perennial found in grassy places throughout the UK. It occurs in meadows, pastures, waysides and grassy dunes. It has spread worldwide but the major areas of distribution are the cooler, temperate regions.
Hairy, flat rosette, broad-leaf type: Similar to Dandelion in appearance, but the rosette of leaves are very hairy and irregularly lobed. A long taproot anchors the plant.
Cat's-ear grows most vigorously on well-drained slightly basic soils in open sites. Cat's-ear occurs on the dry sandy soils of dunes as well as moist but well drained land, but is absent from soils subject to prolonged water logging. It is intolerant of shade and does not occur in woodland. Cat's-ear is a plant of frequently cut or grazed neutral grassland, grassland on sandy soils, lawns, roadside verges, waste places and spoil heaps. It is found on soils within the pH range 3.9 to 8.6.
Cat's-ear has a prostrate rosette habit that survives mowing and grazing. The wiry flower stems bend then spring back to avoid being cut. Defoliation stimulates new leaf development. The presence of old leaves suppresses the growth of new ones. In mown lawns the leaves are close to the ground and in uncut grass the leaves are more upright. Cat's-ear competes well with grassland species and can readily displace other plants including white clover (Trifolium repens). It may have an allelopathic effect on nearby plants and can destroy a pasture within 3 years. It often invades thin, overgrazed, under fertilized pastures.
An erect, leafless and smooth stem bears the yellow flowers. Cat's-ear flowers from June to September, but although it peaks in these two months flowers can appear sporadically throughout the summer. The autumn flower heads tend to be smaller than those formed earlier in the year. Flowers are cross-pollinated and normally self-incompatible but some self-pollination can occur. Numerous insects visit the flowers.
The rosette of leaves are very hairy and irregularly lobed
Seeds are produced from mid May to late September. Seed numbers per flower head range from 44 to 136. There may be 2,329 seeds per plant. In short turf, vegetative propagation involves plants splitting at ground level to become multi-crowned and forming small clumps from the same clone. Crown fragments can regenerate but root fragments, without some crown tissue attached, cannot.
CULTURAL CONTROL MEASURES:
Hand weeding - Individual weeds can be carefully lifted with a fork or pulled out by hand. Ensure all portions of taproot are removed to prevent re-growth. Mow regularly to prevent flower and seed heads forming. Remove all clippings after mowing to prevent spread of seed. Feed and top-dress to encourage vigorous growth of the turf grasses.
CHEMICAL CONTROL MEASURES:
Treatment should be little and often, spraying again six weeks after the initial treatment in order to gain better control.
These selective herbicides have Cat's-ear control listed on their labels:
Headland Relay Turf - Mecoprop - P, Dicamba & MCPA - Headland Amenity
Mascot Super Selective - Mecoprop -P, Dicamba & MCPA - Rigby Taylor
New Estermone - 2,4-D & Dicamba - Vitax
Supertox 30 - Mecoprop -P & 2,4-D - Bayer
Intrepid 2 - Dicamba, Dichlorprop & MCPA - Scotts Professional
Always read the label - use pesticides safely.
With thanks to Mike Seaton, Weed Free www.weedfree.co.uk