Interesting facts about dandelions.

I’m revisiting an old post that usually sees a bit of traffic at this time of year…but it’s NEW AND IMPROVED! I’ve added a new photo and some new facts, and updated some links.  I hope you enjoy the extras! 

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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 – 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 to be pollinated to form seed.

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…).

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I found this strange dandelion specimen on Nose Hill, in Calgary – 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. 

Thank you again for following Flowery Prose!  I truly appreciate your readership!  

Fleeting….

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In the Spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.

∼Mark Twain

While waiting on the fresh snow to melt outside, I had a bit of fun photographing the bright flowers in a mixed bouquet given to me by a friend.  I spotted a couple of crocus blooming in the garden on 31 March, but they were eaten by jackrabbits within a few hours of my noticing.  “Ephemeral,” indeed….

March blog fun.

I haven’t posted one of these roundups in a few months (to say it’s been an insanely futile effort to get anything done busy lately is a massive understatement), but I’m always coming across interesting things to share, and I’ve been saving up links from a bunch of sources. Hope you enjoy this collection!

This amazing photography technique using UV light takes floral imagery to new heights – check out the breathtaking work of Craig Burrows here.

Granted, winter is officially over in the northern hemisphere, but it’s still well worth it to watch these jaw-dropping video timelapses of frost and other wintry occurrences, shot by Danish filmmaker Alf Pilz.

The 51st American football (NFL) championship game is also a done deal, but I love this fun post by Alys of Gardening Nirvana so much I have to share it: click over and enjoy The Super Bowl of Gardening.  

I was not previously familiar with the poetic form the Etheree, but this beautiful offering from Linda of The Task at Hand is a perfect welcome to spring.

Very early in the year, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) posted a collection of fascinating and funny wildlife photos from northern Ontario – you can take a look at them here.  There is a link at the bottom of the page which takes you to the CBC Up North Facebook page and more pics.

Finally, a smidgen of the freelancing work and fiction that I’ve been working on has been published in the past few months, including:

My very short story “Gardening in a Post-Apocalyptic World” is included in Third Flatiron Publishing’s newest anthology Principia Ponderosa.

“The Forest Formula,” my article about designing forest gardens, is featured in the Spring 2017 issue of Herb Quarterly.

The Spring issue is at the printers right now (and I have an article in it as well!), but “Grow Delicious Microgreens Indoors This Winter” was published in the Winter 2017 issue of Archive, a fantastic new print magazine out of northern Alberta.

 

Enjoy the start of your week! It’s finally starting to look and feel like spring here in Calgary!  Many years we still have a lot of snow on the ground and winter-like temperatures in late March, but we are super fortunate this year and my hubby and my brother and I were delighted to get out on the golf course this afternoon. Temporary greens, of course, but it was so great just to soak up the sunshine and play!  I love this time of year! 

 

Alberta snapshot: Hawk Hill Calgary Sentinels.

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The monoliths of artist Beverly Pepper’s Hawk Hill Calgary Sentinels are an impressive feature of Ralph Klein Park in Calgary.  You can read more about Pepper’s work here.  I took this photo on a stormy, sticky-hot and mosquito-heavy August morning last year – as we walked in the park, we saw a small funnel cloud in the distance, far to the east and travelling away from us.

Ralph Klein Park is actually pretty impressive all-around.  Named after the province’s colourful former premier (d. 2013), the park is part of the massive Shepard Wetland: the largest constructed stormwater treatment wetland in the entire country.  The wetland is 160 hectares in size and can hold up to 6 million cubic metres of stormwater, if necessary. (You can read more about it here). The park also contains a public community orchard and the incredibly beautiful LEED Gold-certified Environmental Education and Ethics Centre, which rises above the water on stilts and has accessible catwalks and decks for visitors to wander. (It’s also home to artwork from Peter von Tiesenhausen and shows off attractive and useful gabion walls, inside and out). All this…and it’s home to a huge variety of bird species!

Flowery Friday.

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Yet another week of not-spring has gone by…but I’m feeling optimistic. Looking very forward to sunshine-filled summer hiking trips and a possible sighting of this fascinating Alberta wildflower, striped coralroot (Corallorhiza striata). To find out why this plant isn’t green, check out a previous post I did about coralroots way back in 2013.

Enjoy your weekend!  What projects are you working on (gardening or otherwise)?

Glow festival.

Over the Family Day long weekend (February 17-20), Calgary held its inaugural Glow Festival downtown. For four evenings, you could walk around a course of a few city blocks and enjoy various light sculptures and art pieces.  Some of them, like The Door (artist Paul Magnuson) were interactive: you opened up a door that sat in the middle of the sidewalk, to be greeted with a blast of visual and sound effects that changed each time the door was reopened.  Some were cute inflatable bunnies (Nibbles, a series by artist Amanda Parer):

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And my very favourite was an amazing lighted sculpture made by Jeremy Tsang, called Chopsticks=Chandelier. This stunning piece was made completely of clear chopsticks and chopstick rests and was lit both within (by a rope light) and from without, by flood lights. According to the Glow brochure, “This work explores the Chinese culture and the migrant workers that build the Canadian Pacific Railway, while celebrating the Centennial Year in the winter season through a visually stunning outdoor chandelier sculpture.” Absolutely beautiful, creative work.

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Seriously – chopsticks!  Fantastic.

Flowery Friday.

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Today’s flower is an interesting one (and a native, to boot!) – woolly gromwell (Lithospermum ruderale).  According to Plants of Alberta (France Rover, Richard Dickinson), there are only thirty species of the Borage family growing wild in Alberta, of which this is one. In early summer, the west slopes of Nose Hill here in Calgary are dotted with these strange spiky-leaved plants, in full bloom.

What ruderal plants are common where you live?  I always think of fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium, syn. Chamerion angustifolium) – in mid-summer, it is simply spectacular in roadside ditches and in mountain meadows.