Orange hawkweed (pilosella aurantiaca)

By | 12/05/2015
A stem of Orange Hawkweed buds and flowers
An Orange Hawkweed plant
An Orange Hawkweed plant

Orange hawkweed (pilosella aurantiaca, previously called: hieracium aurantiacum) is a small sized, broad-leaved lawn weed that is quite common in very neglected lawns in the North West of England.

It is also referred to as Fox-and-cubs, Tawny Hawkweed or the Devil’s Paintbrush and is probably my favourite flower of all of the lawn weeds that I come across due to its lovely orange flowers.

It has a circular arrangement of leaves that come from a single growth node at ground level. The leaves are dark green, a long oval in shape, quite hairy and can grow up to 15cm long. It flowers from May through to September and sends up a tall stem up to 60cm tall. Atop which sits its cluster of flowers. It is from this cluster that it gets the common name of Fox-and-cubs as often the fox-coloured flowers are mixed with those yet to open.

The orange hawkweed flower is a beautiful burnt-orange colour, similar in sized to the common dandelion (taraxacum officinale) (to which it is related) and it is really noticeable in a garden.

Orange Hawkweed Flowers
Orange Hawkweed Flowers
Orange Hawkweed Flower
An Orange Hawkweed flower
Orange Hawkweed Rosette
The Orange Hawkweed rosette of leaves

Is Orange Hawkweed a pest?

Orange hawkweek is on the noxious or quarantine list in some countries in which it has invaded. Especially the USA and Australia. Please check local regulations if you are outside of the UK.

It is a hardy perennial herb which was first brought over to Britain from central Europe in the 17th century as a garden plant. It’s not at all native to these isles. It has been here a fair while and has naturalised almost everywhere.

Hawkweed reproduces both through setting seed and through rhizome and stolon runners along the soil. It can be difficult to control by hand-weeding if it has been allowed to establish. It can spread quite quickly if it takes hold.

Orange hawkweed is easily controlled in lawns through chemical application, and a regular treatment will take care of these weeds in your lawn.

If you have a problem with hawkweed in your lawn, then get in touch and I will be happy to advise.

Kris Lord

9 thoughts on “Orange hawkweed (pilosella aurantiaca)

  1. Peter Plant

    Hawkweed is a pest which, in many countries, particularly USA, is often invasive to the point of requiring quarantine (i.e. Washington state). I don’t know anyone who would want hawkweed, not even one single stalk, in their garden. Unless you want a sea of yellow in your garden IMO hawkweed is best eliminated at first sighting. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

    1. Kris Lord Post author

      Thankfully, Britain is very different to the USA. Orange Hawkweed in the UK is considered a valuable plant for pollinators and other wildlife and is even sold by many nurseries through the RHS Website.
      Thanks for reading.

  2. Robert

    I have a wild garden in Surrey on chalk and a wild meadow nearby. The orange hawkweed has begun to take over and is dominating everything in May. In an area of 2 acres I have pulled out over 2,000 plants of which most come out with their carrot shaped root especially if they are large and mature. The small ones often break off leaving the root. If i pull out every plant before they seed will that make a difference. I have notice that the weed is strongest on the west side of hedges and other barriers so I am assuming it is mostly propagated by blown seed. Other plants in quantity in this area mostly in flower now are the Ox-eye daisy, the cow slip (over), the tall buttercup, the yellow rattle, the cow slip, the hog weed (not yet in flower) and a tall spike single yellow dandelion style flower.
    Am I doing the right thing?

    1. Kris Lord Post author

      Hi Robert,
      By pulling out adult plants you will be reducing the populations of hawkweed, obviously.
      You do ask if you are doing the right thing, but do not say what you are trying to achieve! The flowering species of plants in wildflower meadows do come in waves naturally. One plant will flower one month, then another the next so naturally you will find a lot of one plant at any one time. Why do you particularly not want the hawkweed in your wildflower meadow?
      I’m not sure I understand what you are asking I’m afraid.
      Thanks for reading.

  3. Carol Franklin

    I found the orange hawkweed on the front step of my house in between the slabs and the steps. I liked it very much and decided to dig it up and put it in a pot although I didn’t think I would get it out but I have learned through your website that it only has short roots. A bit disappointed that it is a weed but I wondered if it would be best kept in a pot in view of the fact that it is invasive. It is a really lovely burnt orange colour.

  4. David bruce

    Planted it deliberately as it is said to be good in sandy soil. They were not wrong. It can be very invasive and very fertile from wind blown seeds. I am having a real battle over several years to eradicate it. Keeps popping up from little shots of root or runner or in unexpected places from wind blown seed that I on allowed to mature. The only good thing is the orange flowers give its position in the border away.. For attention.

  5. Jacqueline Bell

    We found this for the first time in our front garden this year. It id a beautiful burnt orange and we have noticed it is now coming up more. Do we have to pull it up or can we let it grow free.

    Yours faithfully
    Jacqueline Bell
    Salford, Manchester
    Great Britain.


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