Montag, 27. August 2012

Plant of the Day (August 27th, 2012) . Cichorium intybus L.

As I promised, my Blog is back with a new “Plant of the Day”. This plant is Cichorium intybus L. from the Asteraceae family (sub-family: Cichorioideae). In German, this species is known as “Gemeine Wegwarte” or “Zichorie” and in English as “Chicory”.

C. intybus - habitus

It's a herbaceous plant, which can reach heights between 30 to 200 centimetres (0.98 to 6.6 feet). The stem is branched richly. The leaves are not uniform. Lower leaves are lobated, serrated or even pinnate. Their leaf-veins are also often covered with small bristles. The upper leaves are long and lanceolate with a very broad leaf-base, which can embrace the whole stalk. The leaf-veins of the upper leaves aren't hairy.

C. intybus - inflorescence & bracts (here you can
see how the bracts embracing the stalk)

The inflorescences are the typical heads of the Asteraceae. An inflorescence consists of many small flowers, which form a fake, large “flower”. As member of the Cichorioideae, the inflorescences of C. intybus are all cygomorphic ray flowers. Each flowers has five azure (in some rare cases white) petals, which are fused to form one large, fake “petal”.

This seems to be a little bit complicated, but I will explain the difference between the flowers of the two large sub-families of the Asteraceae (Cichorioideae and Asteroideae) in a future article.

C. intybus - basal leaf

C. intybus is native to Europe, Asia Minor and Northern Africa but can also be found as neophyte in other regions of the world like North America or South Africa. It grows on roadsides, ruderal wastelands and pastures, what is also the reason for the German name “Wegwarte” (way keeper). This plant is typical for trodden trails.

C. intybus - inflorescence

In past, this plant was used to cure diseases of spleen, liver and bile (C. intybus is one of only a few medicinal plant for the spleen). It was also used as laxative and as appetizer. Even today, chicory is used as a spice and vegetable.

Chicory is also part of many medieval legends. For example, the people believed, that this plant had the power of love and sensuality.

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