Ben here with the Friday edition of #BenInNature presented by our friends at Carter Bank & Trust!

Ben here with the Friday edition of #BenInNature presented by our friends at Carter Bank & Trust!

Ben here with the Friday edition of #BenInNature presented by our friends at Carter Bank & Trust!

When it comes to identifying stuff in nature on the fly, plants are definitely my weak spot (it probably isn't good to have an entire taxonomic kingdom for a weak spot, but that's beside the point). And so, when I saw this flower over the weekend, I snapped a picture because I thought it was pretty. Little did I know this flower belongs to a very versatile plant. This is Cichorium intybus, better known as common chicory!

While chicory is native to Europe, it has long been naturalized in North America and is fairly common. You've probably heard the word "chicory" used to refer to a coffee substitute which is made from roasted and ground chicory roots and tastes similar to coffee (it doesn't have caffeine, though). The leaves are also edible, although they have a bitter taste if eaten raw.

You've probably seen a cultivated variety of chicory in the produce section at the grocery store: radicchio! Known for its bitter and somewhat spicy flavor and its use in Italian cuisine, radicchio is a variety of chicory known as Cichorium intybus var. foliosum.

As if all that weren't enough, chicory has also been used in traditional medicine and serves as an easily digestible forage for livestock. It's quite the versatile plant!

ABOUT #BenInNature
Social distancing can be difficult, but it presents a great opportunity to become reacquainted with nature. In this series of posts, Administrator of Science Ben Williams ventures outdoors to record a snapshot of the unique sights that can be found in the natural world. New updates are posted Monday - Friday, with previous posts highlighted on the weekends. This series of posts is made possible thanks to the support of VMNH Corporate Partner Carter Bank & Trust (

If you discover something in nature that you would like help identifying, be sure to message us right here on Facebook with a picture (please include location and date of picture) and we'll have our experts help you identify it!

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