Dandelion: Wildflower, Weed Or Something In Between?

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

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!

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

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?

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

 

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19 thoughts on “Dandelion: Wildflower, Weed Or Something In Between?

  1. I’m definitely coming down on the wildflower side of that fence. In a sturdy mixed-plant setting dandelions haven’t been particularly invasive in my spaces and I’ve always loved the flowers. I adore wood sorrel and have a patch of bristly mallow as intentional ground cover. Hmmm. Perhaps I’ve already shown a certain lack of good judgement when it comes to knowing a weed when I see one?

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    • I’m with you. I’ve always liked Dandelions and since we don’t have much of a “yard” anymore I just let them grow where they want to. I spent the afternoon outside cleaning a flower bed and left every Dandelion in place! One woman’s weed is another woman’s flower.

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  2. I second the vote for wildflower. Like Texas Deb, I see them, enjoy them, spread their seeds (yes, I still pick the fuzzy seedheads up and whoosh them with my breath, and I don’t find them invasive. Cheery and bright, when there’s not much else blooming, I love’m!

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  3. An interesting, and informative, post. I don’t consider it to be a weed just another flower that often grows in the wrong place. I just dig out any I don’t want and leave the others, as I do with with most plants. xx

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  4. The roots of dandelions extend deep into the soil, bringing up calcium. When the dandelions die, which they will without chemicals applied when weather gets hot, the calcium is left for the benefit of more desirable plants.

    Bleaching dandelion leaves by covering them with paper or cardboard for a few days takes away the bitterness if you don’t find green dandelion leaves palatable.

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  5. On a trip to Iceland, we have never seen Dandelions as huge, prolific, and beautiful as they were there, one of Iceland’s main wildflowers. With a rather barren, volcanic landscape, they really brightened up the island along with lupines.

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  6. I love the old names and the plant lore you’ve shared. My favourite quote about a weed is: ‘Any flower having to deal with an unhappy human’. Having said that, I am rather wary of dandelions in gardens, though from time to time I have seen massive, sturdy, healthy ones growing large clusters in patches of waste land that look as stunning as any aster I’ve seen.

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    • Great quote and so true! I guess it all comes down to the old quote about beauty being in the eye of the beholder. I don’t mind dandelions as much as I used to. They do add some “wild” color and tend to thrive in any type of weather. So even when just about everything else has died away, they still manage to catch one’s eye, and I guess the wildlife enjoy them!

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