hawkweed, any species of the genus Hieracium of the family Asteraceae ( aster family), widely distributed perennials, chiefly of open fields. The small, dandelionlike flower heads are borne in clusters at the top of a long, hairy stem; the basal leaves are also hairy. Some species of the W United States are used for forage; in the East, hawkweeds are generally considered pests. In the fall the orange hawkweed, or devil's-paintbrush, the rattlesnake weed, and the king devil often turn whole fields a ruddy orange or yellow. Other species are red or white; a few are cultivated in rocky soil where other plants cannot grow. In folklore, hawks sharpened their eyesight by eating hawkweed sap. Hawkweed is classified in the division Magnoliophyta , class Magnoliopsida, order Asterales, family Asteraceae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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