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European hawkweed identification and control: Hieracium sabaudum

European hawkweed identification and control

Hieracium sabaudum

European hawkweed - click for larger image

European hawkweed, also called savoy hawkweed, is a tall perennial with many small dandelion-like flowers and multiple, stout leafy stems from a single root crown. Like other hawkweed species, this plant is highly invasive and will spread over large areas if not controlled.

Legal status in King County, Washington

European hawkweed is a Class B Noxious Weed in Washington State, in the group of hawkweeds known as wall hawkweeds (subgenus Hieracium).  The species has been selected by the King County Noxious Weed Control Board for required control in King County due to its limited distribution in the county and potential for significant impact should it spread to uninfested areas. European hawkweed is on King County's list of Regulated Class B Noxious Weeds. Public and private landowners are required to control this plant when it occurs on their land. Because of the difficulty to distinguish this plant from more widespread weeds, we recommend contacting the noxious weed program for a positive identification before removing.

For more information see Noxious weed lists and laws.

Identification (see below for more photos)

  • Multiple upright, leafy stems up to 4 feet tall from a single root base
    European hawkweed (Hieracium sabaudum) flower - click for larger image
  • Numerous, small, dandelion-like flowers in a loose, branched, flat-topped candelabra shaped cluster
  • Bloom time is late July to October
  • About 50 stem leaves, larger and denser near the bottom and getting smaller up the stem
  • Leaf edges strongly toothed, leaves tapered and narrow toward the base
  • European hawkweed (Hieracium sabaudum) lower leaves - click for larger image
    Lower surface of leaf has long, slender hairs
  • Stems have a milky juice
  • Lower portion of stem covered with dense, long, white hairs (see photo below)
  • Stalks below flowers have soft white hairs
  • Does not form stolons

Habitat and impact

European hawkweed is found mostly on roadsides and in open fields, forest clearings and other disturbed areas. Typically found where soil is well-drained, coarse-textured, and low-nutrient.

European hawkweed (Hieracium sabaudum) flowering plant - click for larger image

It can form large infestations along roadways and in open fields. Currently European hawkweed is very limited in distribution in Washington State.

Growth and reproduction

European hawkweed reproduces by seed. Because seed production is mostly asexual, hawkweeds do not depend on pollination and can rapidly dominate an area due to its high seed production. Hawkweeds are perennials and can thrive in a wide range of conditions. Seeds can disperse long distances.


Small populations can be removed by digging. Make sure to remove the entire root since plants can resprout from root crowns. If plants are in flower, bag and discard flowering stems to avoid spreading seeds.

European hawkweed (Hieracium sabaudum) on highway I-90 road shoulder- click for larger image

Do not control by mowing unless mowers can be cleaned before moving to new areas and all the flowering stems can be collected and discarded. Plants will re-grow after being mowed and flower again in the same season.

Large areas infested with hawkweed are highly difficult to manage. In areas where hawkweed is still limited in distribution, every effort should be made to contain and reduce the hawkweed before it is too established to control.

Selective herbicides have been most successful in managing hawkweed because they allow the grass to remain in place, greatly reducing the germination of hawkweed seeds in the soil and slowing down re-invasion by the hawkweed.

Hawkweed management needs to be combined with altering the conditions in the plant community to favor grasses and native plants. If holes left after controlling hawkweed are not filled quickly with desirable species, hawkweed is likely to re-infest the area. Since hawkweed often grows in low-nutrient, low-organic soils, amending the area with fertilizer and organic matter can help reduce re-infestation by hawkweed when combined with active management of the hawkweed.

Make sure to have a long-term plan to ensure success, protect native and beneficial species while doing the control, and start in the least infested areas first and then move into the more heavily infested areas.

Additional information on European hawkweed

What to do if you find this plant in King County, Washington

Please notify us if you see European hawkweed growing in King County. Our program staff can provide the property owner or appropriate public agency with site-specific advice on how best to remove it. We map all known locations of regulated noxious weeds such as European hawkweed in order to help us and others locate new infestations in time to control them.

European hawkweed photos

European hawkweed (Hieracium sabaudum) flowerheads
European hawkweed (Hieracium sabaudum) leaf
European hawkweed (Hieracium sabaudum) leaf underside hairs
European hawkweed (Hieracium sabaudum) stem base leaves
European hawkweed (Hieracium sabaudum) buds and flower
European hawkweed (Hieracium sabaudum) flowers
European hawkweed (Hieracium sabaudum) stem hairs
European hawkweed (Hieracium sabaudum) hairs on lower stem
European hawkweed (Hieracium sabaudum) stem base hairs
European hawkweed (Hieracium sabaudum) roots
European hawkweed (Hieracium sabaudum) roots
European hawkweed (Hieracium sabaudum) budding plant
European hawkweed (Hieracium sabaudum) stem with flowers and buds
European hawkweed (Hieracium sabaudum) flowering plant
European hawkweed (Hieracium sabaudum) infestation
European hawkweed (Hieracium sabaudum) flowering in grass field
European hawkweed (Hieracium sabaudum) on I-90 road shoulder
European hawkweed (Hieracium sabaudum) seeding

Report european hawkweed in King County, Washington

Locate european hawkweed in King County, Washington

Related information

Related agencies

Program offices are located at 201 S. Jackson St., Suite 600, Seattle, WA 98104. To contact staff, see the Noxious Weed Control Program Directory, send an email, or call 206-477-WEED (206-477-9333).