Dandelions, dandelions everywhere! The City has reduced its herbicide use over the past few years, which is a very good thing, but it means that the yellow and white is going strong. While the proliferation of dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) probably doesn’t impress our neighbours who own homes, living in an apartment has its perks: we don’t do our own lawn care so I can actually regard dandelions without disgust or despair. They are, after all, one of the best early pollinator plants around!
Just for fun, I dug up some Interesting and Occasionally Contradictory Facts about Dandelions:
The name dandelion comes from the French “dent de lion” – lion’s tooth, which refers to the serrated leaves.
Taraxacum officinale is a perennial, but there are some dandelion species that are biennial.
Dandelion pollen cannot cause allergies – the grains are far too large to be bothersome, but you can get contact dermatitis from the milky sap (latex) that the plant contains.
Dandelions open in the daytime and close at night.
Dandelion seed can travel up to 8 kilometres (5 miles).
Dandelion flower heads can be used to make dye – oddly, in the purple colour range (unless you do not use a mordant, in which case it is yellow).
Dandelions have a taproot which can extend up to a whopping 4.5 metres (15 feet) underground, although you’ll typically find them top out at 45 cm (18″), which is still pretty long.
The taproot of dandelions is very useful to reduce compaction in garden soil.
Dandelions are dynamic accumulators – that means they can draw nutrients such as nitrogen from the soil and concentrate them in their leaves and roots.
The parts of the dandelion apparently represent the celestial bodies: the yellow flower head is the sun, the white seed head is the moon, and the seeds are the stars as they spread all over the galaxy (read: your lawn).
What we think of as the petals of a dandelion flower are actually individual flowers themselves. They will produce fruit called achenes, followed by the tiny, barbed brown seed and it’s accompanying “parachute” that helps it disperse in the wind.
Dandelion flowers do not need to be pollinated to form seed.
Dandelions likely originated in Eurasia 30 million years ago.
Dandelions are high in calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C.
Dandelions are known as ruderals or pioneer plants, the first to colonize disturbed land (such as after a wildfire).
Apparently dandelion latex has been historically used to treat warts, clear skin complexion, and heal blisters. (I don’t know how it can help the complexion when it also causes contact dermatitis, but…?). I read that there is some sort of idea to use it in the future to make rubber tires for automobiles – we’ll see how that turns out.
Dandelion roots can be used as a coffee substitute, much like chicory.
I had no idea, but dandelion roots can also be used to make beer – here is one recipe I found, which also uses burdock roots.
I found this strange dandelion specimen this morning out on Nose Hill – it looks like it might be a type of fasciation. The fifth flower head actually drove through the centre stem, which was massively enlarged and already sported four joined flower heads.
Do you harvest dandelions for use? Or are they the bane of your existence?