Dandelions get no respect. There’s a whole industry dedicated to their eradication. Why? What is their great crime against horticulture. Basically, they ruin an otherwise perfect lawn. Or do they? True, they self-sow with thoughtlessly. But what makes a dandelion less worthy than a bee balm?
Some dandelion facts that may have you holding back on the broad leaf weed killer.
● Prior to the 1800s, dandelions were encouraged in lawns, along with other edible and medicinal “weeds” like chamomile, chickweed, and purslane.
● There’s no waste with dandelions. The leaves, flowers, and even that ridiculously long tap root are all useful as food and medicine. The flower also makes a great yellow dye.
● Dandelions provide a nutritional kick. They are rich in vitamins A, C and K, as well as calcium, iron and potassium.
● You’ve probably heard of dandelion wine, but did you know dandelions are also used in root beer or that the root is roasted and used as a coffee substitute?
● That darned taproot can grow up to 15 ft. Luckily most don’t get any longer than 18 in., which is plenty long enough.
● Before you curse that taproot, remember that it does an excellent job of reducing soil compaction.
● Plus, dandelions are dynamic accumulators, drawing nutrients from the soil into their roots and leaves and releasing them, to the benefit of other plants.
● The Spanish and Germans brought the dandelion with them when they emigrated to the U.S. They grew it as a nutritious green. It is still grown as a crop in Belgium.
● Dandelions have a long history stretching thousands of years, of being used to treat all kinds of maladies, like infections, diabetes, and even cancer.
● Dandelions have one of the longest bloom times of any plant.
● Their silly name is from the French “dent de lion”, which means lion’s tooth, and is a reference to the serrated, toothed leaves.
● The dandelion flowers are photosensitive, opening in the morning sun and closing when it sets.
Now the bad news:
● Our lawn dandelion isn’t the only one. There are about 30 species of dandelion, scattered throughout the world.
● The wind can disperse seed as far as 5 miles away.
● There are dandelions that can reach 17 in. tall.
● Some people have allergic reactions from touching or eating dandelions.
● Dandelions are either perennial or biennial. Either way, they have plenty of time to set seed.
● Although many insects love their pollen, their flowers do not need to be pollinated to form seed.