Dandelions, dandelions everywhere! The City has reduced its herbicide use over the past few years, which is a very good thing – dandelions are, after all, one of the best early pollinator plants around!
Just for fun, I dug up some Interesting Facts about Dandelions:
The name dandelion comes from the French “dent de lion” – lion’s tooth, which refers to the serrated leaves.
Another folk name for dandelion is “swine snort,” which makes me want to sneeze or giggle or both.
Taraxacum officinale is a perennial, but there are some dandelion species that are biennial.
If you mow dandelions, they’ll grow shorter stalks to spite you.
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 in the yellow-green range. The leaves will make a purple dye.
Dandelions will produce more seed than usual if their habitat is disturbed, giving them a competitive edge over other plants in the area.
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” (called a pappus) that helps it disperse in the wind.
Dandelion flowers do not need pollinators to form seed – they can pollinate themselves.
Dandelions likely originated in Eurasia 30 million years ago.
Dandelions are known as ruderals or pioneer plants, the first to colonize disturbed land (such as after a wildfire).
Dandelion blossoms have been historically used to treat warts, clear skin complexion, and heal blisters.
I read that there is some sort of idea to use the latex in the future to make rubber tires for automobiles – we’ll see how that turns out. UPDATE: There is an article about the concept here.
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.
Dandelion leaves are rich in vitamins A, C, and K, and the minerals calcium, potassium, iron, and manganese.
Some children’s books (fiction and non-fiction) about dandelions include: Joseph P. Anthony’s The Dandelion Seed, L. Kite’s Dandelion Adventures, and two sets of books with the same title, From Seed to Dandelion, by Jan Kottke and Ellen Weiss, and Dandelions, by Kathleen Kudlinski and Eve Bunting. I reviewed Kevin Sheehan’s The Dandelion’s Tale a few years ago on my now-defunct blog The Door is Ajar – you can find my thoughts here.
Did you know there is a dandelion tree? Well, not really…it’s another case of the utter inaccuracy of most common names. Despite this, Dendroseris pruinata is fascinating and rare, and you can take a look at some photos of it here.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the world’s tallest dandelion was grown here in Canada (in Ontario), and was found in September of 2011. It topped out at a whopping 177.8 cm (70 inches). Apparently, there have been at least two (maybe three?) record-breaking dandelions grown since then, but there is some dispute over whether any of them – even the record-holder – are actually dandelions at all. Read all about the controversy here! (This one in Norfolk certainly seems a little suspicious…).
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.