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!  

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Flowery blurbs, volume 12.

I’ve been gardening “by the minute” lately…that is, cramming five or ten minutes’ worth of work in before the next bout of rainy, windy, or otherwise highly changeable weather.  Ah, glorious Spring!  Yesterday I managed to get one flowerbed edged and weeded before the thunder and lightning started (thankfully, the storm lasted about five minutes, total, and no hail came out of it).  If you’re having to do the same thing with your gardening work, here are a few little Flowery Blurbs to chow down on while you’re waiting for the sun to come out again….

When I was working in a garden centre, some of the most frequently-asked questions concerned tomatoes.  Actually, it was ONE gigantic question:  how do you grow tomatoes in Calgary?  It really is trickier than most other places – if you’re from here you know what I’m talking about.  We have a short growing season, really cool summer nighttime temperatures, and we’re always looking over the horizon for snow, so a vine-ripened tomato that was grown in a Calgary garden is like a shiny nugget of pure gold.  (Okay, so I exaggerate.  But only slightly).  While I should have posted this article up a few months ago when gardeners were starting their tomato seedlings indoors, the information about hardening off and recommended hardy selections is still very useable, and you can always hang onto these excellent tips for next year.  Check out Stacey McDougall’s post about Growing Resilient Tomatoes from Seed on Big Sky Permaculture’s website.

Are you growing fruit trees or shrubs in your garden?  Do you know how to prune them in order to maximize fruit production?  This article from Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development is a short primer on the reasons why pruning fruiting plants properly will give them that extra oomph! factor.

I love the article, From the Shrubbery, by Noel Kingsbury in Gardening Gone Wild – not only does it have a great title (I’m a Monty Python fan and the word “shrubbery” always gets me giggling, what can I say?), but the premise is fascinating.  Kingsbury argues that shrubs more than deserve a status update, and should no longer languish behind perennials for garden dominance.  Of course, he insists, proper management is key – shrubs only work if you culture them properly.  Do you agree with what he suggests?

If you’ve been following my blog, you know I’m interested in vermicomposting, even if I don’t find the worms themselves very appealing.  (By the way, my red wigglers are doing spectacularly; I harvested enough castings to nearly fill a 4 litre ice cream pail about a month ago and worked them into my perennial beds during spring prep).  Although vermiponics has absolutely nothing to do with composting, it does involve worms.  Check out this article that takes the science of aquaponics to a new wriggly level, and removes the fish from the equation.  (Perfect for someone who wants an aquaponics system but can’t keep it up year-round due to the cold weather!).   What do you think of vermiponics – or aquaponics, for that matter?  Would you attempt these systems? 

Finally, from the files of They’re Seriously Serious (I Think):  if the sight of a lawn full of dandelions doesn’t make you hurl curses or gnash your teeth, and you actually have feelings of love and kinship for the sunny yellow flowers, then check out Dandetown‘s Facebook page.  If you’re a creative soul, they’ve got a call for submissions of “your favourite dandelion stories, photos, song lyrics, and recipes.”

On that note, I’m heading out to check on those plants I bought on Sunday and still haven’t put in the ground….  🙂

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Rainy day musings.

This week has been a dreary succession of extremely wet, cold, and blustery days, and it’s impossible to muster any excitement about leaving the comfort of the livingroom couch.  It’s generous woolen blanket and hot cocoa weather – and you need that extra helping of Bailey’s when you remember that it’s the middle of June and the first day of summer is mere hours away.   My flowerbeds stand sorely neglected because of the mud and muck (the weeds don’t seem to mind, however) and the annuals I planted a couple of weeks ago seem to be shrinking back into the earth in protest.  I’m sure the rain will stop eventually; in the meantime, I’ve been doing a great deal of cruising around on the ‘net, and I’ve uncovered some gardening links and tidbits of information that I’d like to share.

An American company called Armstrong and Blackbury Horticultural Products has come up with a “Pollen Bee Nest” that they claim will provide habitat for endangered pollen bees.  The product looks like a brightly painted tin can, but apparently it’s specially designed to be completely waterproof and rodent and bird proof, and it will protect the bees in even the most severe weather.  Gardeners are encouraged to purchase these nests and strategically place them near pollen-producing plants in the garden.  Has anyone ever successfully used this product or one like it?  You can view it on the company’s website at http://pollenbeenest.com/index.html.

The old “to spray or not to spray” argument is ongoing here in the city of Calgary, as the dandelions have been left to their own devices this year.  A combination of the City’s new “less chemical” mandate, the severely wet weather (which has pretty much halted mowing), and the removal of the noxious designation in the new Alberta Weed Control Act has left us overrun.  Some citizens are mightily up in arms because their lawns lack that uninterrupted, pristine green that they’ve worked so hard for – it’s difficult to keep the weeds out when the parks and the neighbour’s back forty are completely covered.  I’m not a fan of using chemicals and I actually thought the massive fields of yellow flowers were sort of beautiful (the current white seed heads, not so much, although they have a certain charm when they’re not waterlogged and bedraggled).  On the other hand, our weather prevented mowing down the beasts before they set seed, which is unfortunate, and I can see that homeowners with lawns might be deeply offended.  It’s an issue that will persist, without resolution.  I’m rolling with the dandelions!   (What is your stand?  Does your municipality have a “no spray” policy?    Check out another blog posting on the subject at  http://bgcamroux.wordpress.com/2011/06/07/a-sea-of-yellow/ .  He’s posted some tips on how to maintain a healthy lawn, and therefore, discourage weeds).

Even if you don’t like insects, you simply must check out the photographs on Adrian D. Thysse’s blog “The Bug Whisperer.”  The macros are stunning.  http://nobonesaboutit.wordpress.com/2011/06/15/face-off-after-the-shake-off/ .  Next time I’m out in the garden or out hiking (on a warm, sunny summer day…in the nebulous future) I’m going to really LOOK at the insects around me.  There’s a whole world out there that I’ve been ignoring.  (Just don’t let anything land on me!).

Here’s to sunny days ahead!