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the web of life in southern Africa

Cichorium intybus (Chicory)

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Eudicotyledons > Core Eudicots > Asterids > Euasterid II > Order: Asterales > Family: Asteraceae > Tribe: Lactuceae > Genus: Cichorium

Originates in Europe and western Asia. There are three main varieties: Wild chicory is a weed (including in southern Africa) and has medicinal properties, Belgium endive is eaten in a similar way to lettuce, and the roots of Coffee chicory are used as a coffee additive or substitute.

Similar to Endive Cichorium endivia but is perennial rather than annual. See under Endive for remarks on the French vs English namings for these two plants.

There are three main varieties of Cichorium intybus:

  1. var. intybus (Wild chicory). Used as a bitter tonic, laxative or diuretic in traditional medicine. Grows as a weed in South Africa: see van Wyk and Malan (1997 p. 246) and Shearing and van Heerden (1994 p. 178).

  2. var. foliosum (Belgium endive, witloof [Belgium], blue sailor [USA]). Has elongated pale leaves, resembles "cos" lettuce, and is eaten in a similar manner to lettuce.

  3. var. sativum (Coffee chicory). This variety has thick taproots that are harvested, cut up and finely ground into a powder that is used as a coffee substitute or additive. The roasting process converts some of the inulin in the roots to oxymethylfurfurol, which smells like coffee. Note, however, that chicory is caffeine-free.


  • Shearing, D. & van Heerden, K. 1994. Karoo. South African Wild Flower Guide 6. Botanical Society of Southern Africa, Kirstenbosch.

  • van Wyk, B.-E. 2005. Food Plants of the World - Identification, Culinary Uses and Nutritional Value. Briza, Pretoria.

  • van Wyk, B. & Malan, S. 1997. Field Guide to the Wild Flowers of the Highveld. 2nd edition. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.