These bright blue flowers often can be seen blooming alongside other non-natives in Iowa, such as Queen Anne’s lace. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

As Iowans take to the road for the summer holidays, they might wonder about the light-blue flowers growing alongside back roads and rural highways.

Chicory (Cichorium intybus) is not native to North America, but has become ubiquitous in Iowa, and many others, as well.

According to Polk County Conservation, chicory was introduced to North America from Europe and is now a common roadside flower found throughout most of the continent.

Chicory has many uses, but is most well known for its association with coffee, the site notes. The roots of chicory can be roasted, ground, and used as a coffee additive.

The plant may also be used for salads, flavoring for stout beers or forage crop for livestock.

Roots and leaves of the beneficial herb have long been used for medicinal purposes, as noted in Mother Earth Living.

Throughout the ages, chicory was used medicinally to reduce swelling, treat jaundice and calm fevers, the site notes.

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The blue flowers of chicory brighten Iowa’s roadsides during the summer. (photo/Cindy Hadish)