Just a Dandelion



“Oh, it’s just a dandelion.”    “Oh, it’s just a worm”.  It’s been a rainy spring.   Every kid on the street has been busy “saving” worms they find in the road.  They mourn each bedragled corpse and rightfully rejoice when the first dandelions bloom, a sure sign that the good weather is coming back and the worms will be free to return to the ground.  

We often lose sight of  the importance of the ordinary.  A naturalist friend of mine sometimes chides me if I seem disappointed in a  “find”.   If I say, “Oh, it’s just a blackbird”, she says “Just?”  I tire of seeing the words “wonder” and “nature” together in the same sentence, – the combination is over-used.  But my friend is right.  There is no “just”.

Take the dandelion.  I know there are lots of people who prize their all-green lawns who would love me to take their dandelions.  Millions are spent for chemicals to eradicate them from suburbia.  Theodate Pope had her gardeners pluck them from the lawn by hand.  (See “Earth Day”).  She was of a different time to be sure, but had she known her greens, she’d have been gathering the dandelion leaves up by the armful.  Remarkably, they are good sources of many vitimins and minerals-B1,B-12,B-6,C, magnesium and zinc.  And all this available free from any backyard in the northern hemisphere!

The dandelion gets its name from the shape of its leaves.  The edges are pointy like teeth.  The French for teeth is “dents”.  The flower became known as lion’s teeth-“dents de lion”.  Europeans know how to use their leaves!  You often find them in salads there.  You can fry the flowers as with zucchini blossoms.  Dandelion is a versatile plant.  A member of the aster family, it can be made into wine or a decoction for kidney ailments.  In herb-based medicine it is considered an excellent diuretic and so it has certain vulgar nicknames.  Send in a question if you want to know.

Dandelion is a crucial component of honey. It flowers well before  and after most other plants,  providing a continuous source of pollen and nectar to bees.  Over ninety-three other insects rely on this as well.  Pigs love it and birds eat the seeds, though cattle shun it for the bitter taste.  It is said however, that it can increase the milk of a cow who will eat it. 

Few can resist the fuzzy heads of seeds that develop virtually overnight from the flower.  Known as “dandelion clocks”, they are delightful to blow on, spreading the seeds far and wide on tufted parachutes.  And who can resist making a crown of dandelions?  The wide stem makes it easy and if you have to rid them from your lawn, it’s a good way to have some fun at the same time.  If only Theodate had thought of it.

See you on the trails!                                                                 dandelion-botanical

Diane Tucker, Estate Naturalist



7 Responses to “Just a Dandelion”

  1. Ratty Says:

    This is a great post! Dandelions are something not many people would think of talking about. I like writing about little things like this too, but I never thought of it either. I’ve always liked the way these little yellow flowers looked, and could never understand why everyone else seemed to shun them. You give lots of good information on them too. I never knew there were so mnay uses for them.

  2. hillsteadnatureblog Says:

    Let’s not forget dandelion wine! Cheers, Diane

  3. Samasong Says:

    What a great article! With such stellar nutritional and medicinal attributes, we should be cultivating this misunderstood “weed” . No more dande-cide; especially not with herbicides.

  4. Clare Taylor Says:

    I have a new appreciation of dandelions. I have been using a picker and have enjoyed the daily dozen harvest.

  5. Marilyn Says:

    This is a great post! I always liked the “ugly” weed!! I always thought its flower brillant with color! Oh and my mother-in-law use to make great wine from the dandelion,

  6. AYarb Says:

    Having young children and neighbors with green lawns, I spent two Springs on my hands and knees with that long tool to take out the dandelion plants from the root in my yard. Alas, I think I only succeeded in dividing the root. The plants came back fuller and more plentiful!

    Well this year, when Spring finally arrived, my youngest was the first to notice the Robins and the pretty yellow flowers. She would say, “Look Mom! There are more of your flowers!” Then she and the others would run to the biggest dandelion clocks and blow the seeds with such glee. I would find myself having a physical/gutteral reaction of “NO! Don’t do that, you are just spreading the seeds and there will be more of them!” But then I stopped myself and saw the joy and excitement on their faces and thought, this won’t last forever. They should have these experiences as memories – I do!

    So, we have thoroughly enjoyed “my” flowers of yellow, purple and white. Maybe I’ll blow some dandelion seeds tomorrow when no one is looking! Thanks!

  7. L Wasserman Says:

    very interesting. have a bit of appreciation for
    subject botanical, but still prefer they not be on
    my lawn. len

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