Did you know that the dandelion is not a native plant? They were brought here by early European colonists as an herbal plant and escaped to live happily ever after. Lawns lit up with gold splashes are so pretty after a long winter how could people hate them? Its likely more people would tolerate dandelions “naturalized” in the lawn if they didn’t turn into those white fluff balls of seed.
The bees appreciate dandelions too. They are an important source of nectar and pollen in early spring, and get bee colonies off to a good start. Birds like the seeds of dandelions even though they are small. Some farm animals don’t care for dandelion foliage as it’s rather bitter and the plants are often left to flower in pastures to the delight of the bees. The only place that dandelions should really be removed from is orchards. Bees will often bypass fruit tree flowers for dandelion flowers and that isn’t a good thing if you want fruit.
Dandelions are interesting plants. The leaves are grooved and arranged to funnel water to the roots and the root itself is a long sturdy taproot capable of storing water so the plant survives drought well. The dandelion begins flowering when the day length is slightly below 12 hours, stops flowering when the day gets to its longest point and then begins flowering again in autumn when the day length is about 12 hours again.
Dandelion flowers are actually masses of small flowers bundled together and these flowers do not need pollination to set seed, although they appreciate and reward bees for helping with pollination. Dandelion flowers close at night and when rain is coming. The dandelion seed floats away on a tuff of fluff to start new colonies. Dandelions are perennial and if you dig down beneath the snow you can find the leaves still green in winter.
All parts of the dandelion are used in herbal remedies or for food. Young dandelion leaves are used for salads and are grown commercially for that purpose to include in “green mixes.” The buds of dandelions and even open flowers can be used in salads also. The young greens are cooked like spinach, although they are best mixed with other greens as they are bitter when cooked.
Dried dandelion leaves are used as a tea to aid digestion. Dried dandelion leaves, dried nettles and yellow dock are turned into an herbal beer once popular in Canada. The leaves are high in calcium, boron, and silicone and modern herbals suggest them to aid in treating osteoporosis.
Dandelion flowers are used to make dandelion wine. Fresh flowers are picked and fermented with sugar and yeast, usually flavored with a little lemon and orange to make a wine that is said to taste good and provide you with lots of vitamins and minerals. Dandelion flowers contain high levels of lecithin and choline, two substances modern herbalists use for treating Alzheimer’s and other brain disorders.
Dandelion roots are dried and ground and used in a number of medicinal ways. They are a mild diuretic and laxative and are said to help the liver. The dried roots are also used as a coffee substitute. The chopped, boiled and mashed roots are an old remedy for sore breasts and mastitis.
When you pick a dandelion flower the stem leaks a milky sap. That sap is an old remedy for warts and other skin conditions. And that sap can be turned into rubber too. In Germany a manufacturing facility began large scale production of rubber from dandelions in October of last year. They hope to have dandelion rubber tires on the commercial market within five years. Besides tires the rubber will be used in many other applications that traditional rubber and latex are used for, such as latex gloves.
As you can see a lawn full of dandelions is like a giant herb and vegetable garden rolled into one! Of course when you pick dandelion parts for eating and herbal use pick them from areas that have not been sprayed with pesticides. Why would anyone want to pollute their lawn with weed killers to get rid of this valuable plant? Don’t hate this valuable and useful plant-think of it kindly and let some live.
Here are some additional articles you may want to read.
Growing and using Lemon Verbena
How to make a woodland garden