E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Taraxacum ceratophorum (Ledeb.) DC.
horned dandelion
Asteraceae (Aster family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Jamie Fenneman  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #21028)

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Distribution of Taraxacum ceratophorum
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Apparently all our mini dandelions in the alpine are this species (BCCDC 2012). It is a highly variable species; for a taxonomic description, visit the Flora North America page (Barkley, Brouillet, and Strother 2012).

Although this species is now recognized in British Columbia, in the Illustrated Flora of British Columbia (Douglas et al. 1998), George Douglas provided the following write up on the genus Taraxacum in BC:

"The genus Taraxacum has received widely varying treatments in North America. This is not unexpected in a group of plants in which hybridization, polyploidy, and apomixis are active. Some taxonomists (e.g., Ferris 1960, Weber 1967, Welsh 1974, Tayl. and MacBryde 1977, Douglas et al. 1989, Richards 1994, Cody 1996) recognize six or fewer native species (e.g., T. californium Munz. & Johnston, T. ceratophorum, T. eriophorum, T. lyratum, T. phymatocarpum and T. spectabile Dahlst.). Others have recognized 10 or more species (e.g., Fernald 1950, Hulten 1968, Scoggan 1979, Porsild and Cody 1980). The most conservative approach for our British Columbia species was taken by Boivin (1966-1967, 1972), Hulten (1968), Packer (1983) and Douglas (1989) who included T. eriophorum and T. lyratum within T. ceratophorum. Hulten (1968), however, included 45 "microspecies" under T. ceratophorum and still recognized nine other northern Taraxacum. I have recognized only one native Taraxacum species in British Columbia for several reasons. Of all the specimens I examined, only a small number would fit the description of the few species generally recognized. The remainder, when mature, represent an amazing array of variation that is often not repeated between sheets. In addition, most of the subalpine-alpine plants never set seed before the end of the short growing season, thus a key character, the achene, is often unavailable for determination. The time spent by several energetic Scandinavian taxonomists (e.g., G.A.H. Dahlstede, G. Haglund, and A.E. Porsild), formally naming several hundred "microspecies", has not enlightened the taxonomy of the genus. Even in recent years some taxonomists persist in naming every variation they encounter (e.g., Richards 1970). Until some brave taxonomist undertakes and successfully completes a thorough modern biosystematic study it would appear that the recognition of more than a single entity is not feasible.

The following identification key may be used to separate our species:

1. Native, non-aggressive, high elevation species (except rarely along roads in extreme northern British Columbia)..................T. ceratophorum

1. Introduced, aggressive weedy species of disturbed sites.

2. Achenes red to reddish-brown or reddish-purple at maturity, the beak mostly 1-2 (sometimes 3) times as long as the body; leaves mostly deeply cut for their entire length, without an enlarged terminal segment, the lobes narrow; outer involucral bracts appressed to loose or sometimes reflexed; inner involucral bracts usually horned at the tips............................T. laevigatum

2. Achenes olive- or straw-coloured to brown at maturity, the beak mostly 2.5-4 times as long as the body; leaves usually less deeply cut, often with an enlarged terminal lobe; outer involucral bracts reflexed, inner involucral bracts not horned at the tips...........................T. officinale

Source: Illustrated Flora of British Columbia 1998. Volume 1

Species Information

Click on the image below to view an expanded illustration for this species.

Perennial herb from a simple or branched stem-base and a thick, often black, taproot; stems ascending to erect, solitary to several, simple, hollow, glabrous or sparsely long-hairy, exuding milky juice when broken, 3-60 cm tall.
Basal leaves lanceolate to oblanceolate, 1-35 cm long, 0.3-6 cm wide, tapering basally to a more or less winged stalk, nearly entire to toothed or more often pinnately lobed to pinnately cut, the terminal lobe often wider than the others, glabrous or nearly so; stem leaves lacking.
Heads with strap-shaped flowers, solitary; involucres 7-22 mm tall; involucral bracts in 2 series, the outer ones egg-shaped to lanceolate, appressed to ascending, glabrous or long-hairy, the inner ones lance-oblong, long-pointed, usually horned at the tips, rarely only slightly so; ray flowers yellow, sometimes purple-veined; disk flowers lacking.
Achenes 3-7 mm long, not including the beak which is slightly shorter than to 4 times longer than the body, straw-coloured to brownish, or red to brownish-red, or black to greyish-black, ribbed and often spiny above; pappus of numerous, 5-6 mm long, white hairlike bristles.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

Habitat / Range

Moist to dry meadows, rocky slopes and fellfields in the subalpine and alpine zones, occasionally found along gravel roads and in disturbed areas in the montane zone in extreme N BC; frequent throughout BC; N to AK, YT and NT, E to NF and S to NH, ME, NM and CA.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Taraxacum ceratophorum

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 252 1723 2661
Slope Gradient (%) 0 24 110
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
5 206 350
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
0 3 8
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: AT(26), BAFA(33), BWBS(1), cma(1), ESSF(17), ICH(6), IDF(11), IMA(4), MS(5), SBPS(4), SBS(5), SWB(4)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is alpine tundra & boreal.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Taraxacum eriophorum Rydb.
Taraxacum lyratum (Ledeb.) DC.
Taraxacum officinale subsp. ceratophorum (Ledeb.) Schinz ex Thell.
Taraxacum phymatocarpum J. Vahl

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References