Flowery Prose

Growing words….

Interesting facts about dandelions.

49 Comments

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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.

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.

 

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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?

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Author: Sheryl @ Flowery Prose

A bit about me: I am a gardening enthusiast and writer living in challenging zone 3a Calgary, Alberta, Canada, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. My fascination and curiosity about plants and their culture inspire my writing and my life. -Sheryl Normandeau

49 thoughts on “Interesting facts about dandelions.

  1. Thanks so much for the fun post! I love learning new things……Dandelions are far from useless weeds! My mother used to pick the greens before the plant had blossoms and cook them with salt pork. They were a bit bitter but, I remember loving the idea that we picked them from the yard and were eating them. My best friend’s father, who was Swedish, made Dandelion wine which we helped ourselves to when we were teens and added water to the bottles!

  2. Some interesting things there! The fact that dandelions are apomictic – produce seed without pollination – explains why there is so little variation in the flowers, though leaf shape does vary. There is at least one taraxacum species that has pink flowers, however, and I had it once but it died! Not much of an achievement for a gardener – not being able to grow dandelions! I often think that if dandelions were difficult to grow we would all want them – they are so beautiful. I have made wine from the flowers and have eaten the leaves (they are better after blanching – putting a light-proof pot over them so you have pale tender leaves) and made coffee from the roots – which is pleasant but not much like coffee! You can also make dandelion honey from the flowers – boiling them in sugar syrup and reducing it down to a brown, sticky syrup. I am pretty sure that it was the Russians who experimented with using the latex to make rubber.

    • I love that – “if dandelions were difficult to grow we would all want them.” So true! Maybe we are suffering from a bit of a dandelion overload! :) But they are definitely beautiful and very useful. Thanks so much for sharing all this wonderful information!

  3. So fun to read al these facts! We have tons of dandelions growing in our yard!

  4. I think the facts are interesting and it seems that people are a bit more tolerant of these flowers these days.

  5. I love the little blighters. They are so cheerful and bright and always the first flowers in bloom after a long, cold winter. Also, they make wonderful food for bees – at the very least the bees around here seem to love them. I’m terrible about digging them out of my garden beds unless I need the space for another plant. Dandelion jelly tastes like honey but, alas, I’m not making a batch this year. Too many things to process in the pressure canner!!

  6. There are some interesting facts there… don’t like the sound of those long tap roots though! We have firlds full of them near our garden, so there is no pint in worrying about the seed as it will inevitably germinate everywhere! We just enjoy the colourful meadows in spring. I have used the leaves in salads and the flowers in bread, but they didn’t really add any flavour!

  7. What a very strange dandelion in your last photo. I wonder if it has extra roots as well?

  8. It´s interesting to read about the name. In German we call it “Löwenzahn”, which also means Lion´s tooth. But it sounds very different from the French “dent de Lion”.

  9. I like this kind of fact-filled post about a plant so common we take it for granted! I, too, have fond memories of homemade dandelion wine from my teenage years . . .

  10. Dandelions can be whatever you choose them to be between food for your body or irritation to your soul. I choose to think of them as yellow flowers from above that come early for the native pollinators to enjoy.

  11. Dandelion & Burdock is a traditional soft drink in the UK.

  12. I tend toward the “bane of my existence” camp, but I agree that they are of nutritional value. Thank you for the info. A 15 ft tap root is mind boggling!

  13. The factoid about deep tape roots, breaking up compacted ground & pulling up nutrients (same applies to other deep root plants such as thistles and queen-anne’s lace) is one reason I leave them be where we live. Our Appalanchian Mountion region is mostly shale & sandstone. Anything that will create better soil is good to me. I do mow the flower stocks along the pathways, to leave the roots, but limit the seed production.
    Oscar

  14. Must admit I’m a dandelion lover but I live out in the country where dandelions can roam free. I find them relatively easy to remove from garden beds compared to some of the really invasive weeds that spread by roots. As a kid we used to pick the leaves for salads. I haven’t done that in years but perhaps I’ll give it a try one of these days. I remember the taste was actually quite nice.

    • I agree – that taproot isn’t as tricky to remove as, say, the impressively lengthy roots of quackgrass (which is the bane of MY existence). I think the leaves would be delicious in a mixed green salad!

  15. Sheryl somewhere I lost the feed to your blog and just discovered that so I have signed up again….we do love to eat them, but they can be such a pain in the garden because they can take over…of course the vacant house next door with the 2 foot high lawn of weeds does not help.

    • I think that’s often a problem in urban areas – the neighbours not keeping up with the weeds/lawn. It can make things very tricky for the homeowner who wants to keep a bit of control over their garden and yard. There’s a point where it can really get to be too much.

  16. Your first photo is so beautiful of this under-appreciated plant. I enjoyed reading about this ‘weed’. Why is it so hard to work with what’s around us? Why not a field of golden daffodils and dandelions? I wonder if they are ever planted on purpose? Thanks for the post!
    Elaine

    • Thank you! That’s so true…we don’t always have to control everything around us! That brilliant yellow is so appreciated in the spring.

      I wonder as well if anyone plants dandelions in their veggie garden as a food crop.

  17. Love dandelions and love this post;0) Dandelions have lots vit. C and are very tasty. I put the young green leaves in salads, just a handful. Nice with hard boil eggs too. Or when you see a plant growing, put a terra cotta flowerpot upside down on top, the leaves will turn whitish and are also delicious and are known as ‘mole lettuce’. Young flowers I harvest too. I fry them for about 2 minutes and than pour pancake batter on it…ohohohoh, with a little maple syrup, the best you have ever tasted.
    One year, I made dandelion wine…it turned out almost like a sherry liqueur: quite powerful;0)

    • Oh I really love that idea of dandelion flower pancakes! Now you’ve got me thinking…. :)

      And I did not know about the mole lettuce until I received a couple of comments about it. So interesting! I imagine it sweetens the flavour of the leaves as well.

  18. I’m trying making compost tea out of my pulled dandelions this year. The water turns a rich reddish brown within a day, turns icky and smelly if left too long though! Still experimenting…

  19. I’m afraid they are the bane of my existence. We had a neighbour at the lake who let his grass (aka weeds) grow a foot high and filled with Dandelion. My husband had a manual weed puller and spent hour after hour eradicating them from our lawn. Apparently the people that bought our house aren’t as patient and called the county and the messy neighbour got a weed notice. We laughed because we’d actually mow his mess when we were expecting company….LOL

    • Too funny, Boomdee (I happened to be the next commenter after you). Weed Notice!!! Your old neighbors surely do miss you :-)

      • Hey LB, fancy meeting you here, tehe. Hey, they rarely even spoke to us and not once thanked us for mowing their weeds, so they are surely missing our sorry butts, LOL. Love that Karma thang sometimes. A little slice of, “Guess what, it’s you NOT me”. lolololol.

  20. I’m kind of in the middle … no real problems.
    The facts that you posted were interesting! Especially the part about being pioneer plants.

  21. I love to study nature-anything I come across but from plants, to mantises, butterflies, amphibians, spiders, I have never studied the dandilion. thanks. beebeesworld I will follow your post and hope you are following mine. I got so lost in your dandilion story, I forgot what your entry statement said! beebeesworld

  22. What a fascinating list. I also read that Dandelions are one of the first flowers available to bees each year:

    Dandelions are an important first source of nectar for bees and other beneficial insects. Their blooms act as a bridge to survival for bees and other bugs that have managed to make it through winter until more plentiful blooms of spring appear. Source: http://www.startribune.com/local/yourvoices/257190851.html

    This has really changed my opinion of them.

    • It’s true…and especially here, when our spring weather is often incredibly cold and there really aren’t any other food sources available. After watching the bees this spring, I’ve decided to plant more early spring bulbs like muscari to offer up some extra options in my garden. Thanks so much for posting the link as well – a good read!

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