Common cats-ear (Hypochaeris radicata) is a perennial weed. Its name comes from the dense hairs that cover the leaves. It looks very similar to dandelions, but its leaves are not as deeply notched. It also produces yellow flowers and puffball seed-heads very similar to dandelions. Common cats-ear flowers throughout the summer and most heavily in September. Common cats-ear is native to Europe and Northern Asia and can become quite a problem in thin, open areas. The first step in maintaining a thick, healthy lawn is ensuring that you have selected the best grass for your landscape. For more information on the characteristics of different turfgrasses, please see HGIC 1223, Turfgrasses for the Carolinas.
Common cats-ear produces an average of 2,300 seeds per plant but can produce as many as 6000 seeds per rosette. Luckily the seeds do not persist long in the soil, because their viability is limited to less than a year. Moist soil conditions and light are required for germination. The seeds germinate mostly in the fall and less in the spring. For the first year the plant will remain in a basal rosette. A flower will develop the second year; the plant can persist for several years.
Mowing does not control this weed and, even worse, it stimulates flower production. Regular mowing can double the number of flower stalks produced, especially if the lawn is routinely scalped. To make sure that you are mowing your lawn at the correct height see HGIC 1205, Mowing Lawns.
Hand pulling and digging can be very effective. Common cats-ear has a deep taproot but do not worry, removing the crown of the plant provides control, because common cats-ear is unable to resprout from root fragments. Postemergent herbicides applied in the fall are effective at controlling this weed when young. Herbicide recommendations based on lawn species can be found in HGIC 2301 Broadleaf Weeds.