Crepis is a large genus of flowering plants with an estimated 200 species found in many regions of the world. While most species are regarded as weeds, some also have culinary uses and may be used by wildcrafters as a source of food. These plants tend to colonize when they find an environment that meets their needs and being able to identify them can be useful for gardeners dealing with an invasion of weeds.
Members of this genus superficially resemble dandelions and are sometimes mistaken for them. Like dandelions, they have bright yellow flowers and their leaves grow in low rosettes. Crepis species produce branching stems, differentiating them from dandelions, and they also produce multiple flowers per plant, another distinguishing feature. The stems can grow quite tall and are very stiff. The leaves are long and lobed to spiky, depending on the species, and can be found clinging to the stems, as well as in the basal rosette.
These members of the aster family are attractive to butterflies and some other insects as a result of their bold color. They are known by common names like hawk's beard and hawksbeard, and can be found in both rural and urban environments. In rural communities, Crepis species are most commonly found along ditches and in pastures. They can also invade fields and become a problem in gardens, as they appreciate the rich, moist soil built up by farmers and gardeners to support their plants.
In urban environments, Crepis can often be spotted crowding around city trees and in flowerboxes. The plants can also become a problem in urban parks, taking advantage of the mowing and maintenance, which tends to keep down less hardy competing plants, along with the irrigation. The plants can be annual or perennial, depending on the species, and produce small airborne puffs of seeds, allowing them to disperse widely in the environment.
Keeping Crepis populations down when they are unwanted can be a challenge. Pulling the plants up and taking care to pull out the entire root is an important step, and should be done in the early spring, before the plants have a chance to go to seed. Using weed barriers and planting fast-growing plants that will compete for resources can also be helpful. It is possible to target these plants with herbicides, but this can also damage wanted plants in and around the garden.
Edible species have edible leaves and shoots. They can be used in salads, adding a bitter flavor. Some species are more bitter than others and growing conditions can also have an impact on the flavor.