Do you ever remember picking a Dandelion head, making a wish and blowing the puff into the air, watching as the little white bits floated away on a light breeze? I did this all the time as a child. Of course, at that time I wasn’t aware that I was actually broadcasting the seeds of what most people consider a weed. The little yellow flowers were pretty, the puffs were sometimes enormous in size and it was just something kids took pleasure in doing. Sometimes I still do it when my inner child can’t be controlled!
Just what is a Dandelion? Its botanical name is Taraxacum officinale. It is found in pastures, fields, farmlands, meadows, wastelands, playgrounds, schoolyards, front yards and back yards. It also goes by the monikers of Blowball, Faceclock, Lion’s Tooth, Wild Endive, Milk Witch, Bitterwort, Chicoria, Witch’s Gowan, Fortune-Teller, Cankerwort, Swine’s Snout, Irish Daisy and Wet-A-Bed. And probably many more depending on the region!
Is the Dandelion a weed? Most people probably consider it so, though it’s not listed on the USDA’s Federal Noxious Weed List. Your local lawn service company considers it a weed, one to be eliminated forthwith. Farmers everywhere despise it as a weed because it tends to infest crops. Most gardeners detest Dandelions!
Is the Dandelion a wildflower? Well, it’s a flower and it grows in the wild so one could make a case for it being a wildflower. The Dandelion is actually a member of the Aster family so it has a lot of relatives that we consider wildflowers. Why should we dump on the little Dandelion then and call it a weed?
Is the Dandelion something in between? Maybe. The fact is, the Dandelion is a perennial that is often coveted as an herb. The leaves, flowers and roots of these plants are all edible and can be used in many ways. Dandelion salad recipes are available in cookbooks. The roots can be used in soups. And of course the flowers are used to make Dandelion wine! I’ve heard stories of how wonderful all these concoctions are, but I think I’ll stick to blowing on the seed heads!
Here are some interesting facts about Dandelions:
- The name ‘Dandelion’ derives from the French dent de lion, meaning lion’s tooth, which references the plant’s jagged leaves
- The Dandelion was brought to North America from Europe by early Spanish and English settlers
- Dandelions are rich in potassium and calcium
- Practitioners of folk medicine use Dandelions for many purposes, such as to treat liver disorders and as a diuretic
- Roots of some Dandelions, normally six to eight inches long, have been found to extend for up to fifteen feet beneath the ground
- Dandelions are cultivated as a crop in Belgium, France, Germany and China
- Dandelion tea is available to consumers in the herbal tea sections of many drugstores and supermarkets
So what’s the verdict? What will you see the next time you come across a Dandelion — wildflower, weed or something in between?