Orange hawkweed (pilosella aurantiaca)

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

Orange hawkweed (pilosella aurantiaca, previously called: hieracium aurantiacum) is a small sized, broad-leaved lawn weed. It’s a common plant in neglected lawns all over the UK.

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.

An Orange Hawkweed plant
An Orange Hawkweed plant

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

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 Europe in the 17th century. It’s not at all native to these isles. However, it has been here a fair while and has naturalised almost everywhere.

It reproduces both through setting seed and through rhizome and stolon runners along the soil and 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. A regular lawn treatment will take care of these weeds in your lawn.

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

Kris Lord

20 thoughts on “Orange hawkweed (pilosella aurantiaca)

  1. Lesley Annan

    I want to establish a wildflower meadow on the slope in my garden. I left the grass last summer to see what would come up naturally. This year I had yellow and orange hawkweed, white achilleae, and birds foot trefoil. The bees loved them but I am wondering whether I should completely clear them out before planting my wildlife meadow seeds. Any advice.

    Reply
    1. Kris Lord Post author

      Hi Lesley.
      You are asking if you should remove the wild flowers so that you can plant wild flowers?
      There’s not really any right or wrong answer to that I’m afraid.
      Some management to keep the Hawkweed down maybe beneficial, but I would keep it as it is. It sounds nice.
      Kris

      Reply
  2. Judith Dunderdale

    This has appeared on my lawn in large patches. I’ve been told that it’s poisonous to animals and I’m getting a puppy in October. I also love my visiting wild birds whom I feed and I’m worried about them.
    Is it really poisonous?

    Many Thanks

    Reply
    1. Kris Lord Post author

      Hi Judith,
      It is termed as Noxious as the plant is unpalatable and undesirable in pasture and it’s seeds can create environments which deter other plants.
      Unless your dog is stupid enough to consume huge amounts of it and nothing else, then it will be absolutely fine.
      Wild birds live in the wild. They know what is food and what isn’t.
      Your only concern should be it out competing other plants. This can be easily resolved by just weeding it out.
      Thanks for reading.
      Kris

      Reply
  3. Patricia Cooper

    Hi,
    How do I get rid of this Orange hawkweed has taken over the garden have hardly any grass want to returf the garden but am afraid it will come back as has spread to smaller lawn please advise.
    Patricia

    Reply
    1. Kris Lord Post author

      A selective lawn herbicide should keep it in check. Contact your local independent lawn care service for professional advice for weed control.
      Thanks for reading.
      Kris

      Reply
  4. Beryl Wildgoose

    We have this Orange Hawkweed in our garden, we love it, one of the stems has 24 flower heads.

    Reply
  5. Mrs P Calder

    I particularly love the dramatic contrast between the black back of the flower and its lovely deep burnt orange colour. Plus the bees and butterflies adore it.
    We all need to help our pollinators along and re-wilding a bit of the garden is a good start. Orange Hawkweed is my favourite wild flower and I am really pleased to see ot.

    Reply
  6. Sammi C

    Must admit that I like it because of its nectar qualities for flying wildlife. I’m with you, Kris, in that plants are only weeds if in the wrong place. On a similar note, I moved some yellow geums from pathways (trip hazard) and they have self-seeded freely. So I take the same approach with both plants, and move surplus ones to other places.

    Reply
  7. 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.

    Reply
    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.
      Kris

      Reply
  8. 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?

    Reply
    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.
      Regards
      Kris

      Reply
  9. 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.

    Reply
  10. 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.

    Reply
  11. 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.

    Reply
    1. Brendan Flynn

      Orange Hawkweed (aka Fox and Cubs or Devil’s Paintbrush) was introduced into UK from Europe in 17th Century as a garden plant but has since run wild. Very pretty indeed but needs to be controlled or is very invasive and hard to eliminate once established. I try to confine them to the borders and dig up any sprouting from the lawn.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.