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Youngia japonica (L.) DC. 1838
pronounced: YOUNG-ee-uh juh-PON-ik-uh
(Asteraceae – the daisy family)
synonym: Crepis japonica (L.) Benth. 1861
pronounced: KREP-iss juh-PON-ik-uh
common name: Japanese Hawkweed
Youngia was possibly named for either Edward Young (1683–1765), poet and dramatist, or Thomas Young (1773–1829), physicist and Egyptologist, but I can find no mention of either of them being engaged in botanical pursuits. In the synonym, Crepis is from the Greek κρηπις (krépis), a half-boot. Japonica is, of course, ‘of Japan’.
The Youngia genus was first described in 1831 by Count Alexandre Henri Gabriel de Cassini (1781–1832), but was later united with Crepis, where most of the plants known as ‘hawkweed’ reside. After work by E.B. Babcock and G. Ledyard Stebbins in the 1930s, it was restored to its own genus. The genus contains several weed species, including the endangered Youngia nilgiriensis.
This pan-tropical weed is an erect, pubescent herb to about 60 cm high, the leaves mostly in the basal rosette, but there are a few leaves on the stem. The basal leaves are petiolate, oblanceolate, pinnately parted, and finely dentate, about 3–15 cm long and up to 5 cm wide, the terminal lobe largest. The stem leaves are much smaller.
The flower heads are several to many in a panicle, 7–8 mm wide. The flowers are bisexual, and are pollinated by insects. The bracts in the surrounding circle are 5–6 mm long, with about 8 inner (longer) bracts. There are about 10–25 florets, the corolla about 5–6 mm long, yellow. The achenes are brown, less than 2 mm long, with slender, slightly rough ribs; the pappus is soft, white, 3 mm long, and persistent.
It is a plant of waste ground, cultivated fields and roadsides; in Australia it is generally found on the east coast, from Sydney north. It will grow in almost any soil types, in semi-shade or no shade, and requires moist soil.
The young leaves, and indeed the young plant, are reported to be edible, raw or cooked, but are rated at only 1 for edibility on a scale of 1–5. It is also reported as being used as an antidote for snakebite, as a treatment for boils, and for coughs and fevers.
The endangered Youngia nilgiriensis, mentioned earlier, is endemic to the Sispara area of the Kundah range of the Nilgiri Hills in Tamil Nadu, South India. This area is characterized by vast stretches of grasslands interrupted by numerous patches of stunted evergreen forest. It is inaccessible high country, up to about 2300 m. Most of it is now National Park, and I have not been able to find why this plant, and indeed, at least half a dozen other native plants growing there, are endangered. As the area is reported to be ‘infested with elephants and tigers’, perhaps the plants are being trampled by the elephants, who are probably thriving under protected conditions.
Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.
Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2012, 2016
Page last updated 27th September 2016