Cichorium intybus (succory, blue sailors, ragged sailors, blue daisy, coffee-weed, wild endive)

description: herbaceous perennial

place of origin: Eurasia

urban habitat: commonly found along roadsides, the plant thrives in full sun and in dry soils with limestone and elevated pH levels; also found in vacant lots, pavement openings, rubble dump, neglected ornamental landscapes, and along highway banks and medians, chain-link fences, and railroads.

ecological function: disturbance-adapted colonizer of bare ground, tolerant of roadway salt and compacted soil, useful for erosion control on slopes and soil building on degraded land; capable of absorbing heavy metals for phytoremediation and phytomining.

history: Cichorium intybus is one of the earliest cited plants in recorded literature and was cultivated in ancient Rome and Egypt. It was introduced into North America with the arrival of Europeans and is currently distributed widely across the US and southern Canada. The plant has a long history of human use as food and medicine. Its roots and leaves have been used to treat aliments of the liver and digestive tract, and for treatment of gout, rheumatism, sour stomach, constipation, hypoglycemia, and to promote the flow of urine. It was also used by the Iriquois as a purifying agent and by the Cherokee as a tonic. In Europe, the blanched leaves of the plant, produced by cultivation in darkness to reduce bitterness, have been consumed raw in salads as well as eaten cooked. Its roots contain inulin and can be used to make a sweetner suitable for diabetics because of its tendency to pass straight through the digestive system. The roasted and ground root has long been used as an additive to or substitute for coffee, especially during periods of scarcity, and is documented to have been used this way in the South during the Civil War.

Georgetown University Urban Herbs