A GROWING CONCERN: Show a little love for dandelions

SO MANY COMMENTS have been coming to me concerning dandelions — and this year they are earlier than ever!

Are they a weed? Should I kill them? What good are they?

Well, let me revisit an article from 2019 that answers all those questions!

“Golden girl with staying power

lowly weed or eager flower

hands of Littles

gather first bouquets

hands of wishers

blow seeds away

hands of gardeners

on the battle lines

much malign

the dandelion”

— Jeanette Painter Locke

Oh the poor dandelion — eaten, boiled, burnt, fermented, cussed at, brewed, chomped on, stomped on, while all the time beneficial to the local wildlife.

In fact, dandelions could be considered one of the most successful plants on earth.

They are masters of survival as well.

Dandelions are a very large genus of flowering plants known as Taraxacum in the asteraceae family, which are sunflowers.

They are native to Eurasia and North America.

There are approximately 100 species of dandelions; but the two most common varieties, T. officinale and T. erytho spermum, were introduced to America by early settlers from Europe.

They were brought here somewhat as an ornamental, but mostly due to the fact that they are completely edible, from flower to leaf to root.

The name itself derives from the French “dent-de-lion” and means “lion’s tooth,” so named because of their serrated leaves. Lions tooth is an extremely important flower for pollinators like birds and insects due to the heavy nectar value, early and prolific bloom, seed production and hardiness. And it is the dandelions hardiness that is the problem.

Most species in the Taraxacum family are asexual, meaning they do not need to be pollinated to produce seed. On a wing or a wish, dandelion seeds can drift up to 5 miles in any direction and germinate. So it’s not just your next door neighbor.

These plants have evolved incredibly well in order to survive because humans, animals, birds and insects eat them and destroy them. Humans however, do more than eat them and destroy them.

For instance, in liquid form, we can drink dandelion wine, brew root beer, make holistic teas and even use them as a substitute for coffee.

Lion’s tooth is an extremely high source of calcium, iron and vitamins A and C. They can be consumed as a bitter green in salads, blanched or even eaten raw.

They are rich in antioxidants and beta-carotene, which is known to aid in cellular production — their roots have been used by humans in medicine for millennium with references from ancient Chinese, Egyptians, Romans, Greeks and native tribes.

Medicinal usages include the treatment of stomach and liver ailments, high cholesterol and even cancer, although some claims are far better supported by research than others.

Dandelions even live on in mythology as they are considered the only flower that represents the three celestial bodies. The yellow flower is the sun, the white puffball, which is the seed pod, is the moon and the dispersing seeds that rise in the wind are the stars.

Pretty cool stuff for a much-hated weed.

The Rolling Stones have a song “Dandelion,” so it’s been immortalized in music, too.

Unfortunately, for many of us gardening folks it has become the scourge of the gardener ± especially in the lawn. And more unfortunately, we conduct chemical warfare on this flowering plant at the expense of the worms and life in your soil as well as the bees, birds and butterflies.

So as you finish reading the newspaper and go outdoors to enjoy those fine spring days, look differently upon the much maligned plant.

It has been feeding mankind for eternity.

So please, stay well all!

________

Andrew May is a freelance writer and ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email news@peninsulanews.us (subject line: Andrew May).

More in Life

Katie Lee of Port Angeles examines a table of perennial plants during Saturday’s annual plant sale and raffle at the floral barn at the Clallam County Fairgrounds in Port Angeles. The sale, hosted by the Port Angeles Garden Club, was a fundraiser for club projects and scholarships, and it featured a wide variety of plants for the upcoming growing season and beyond. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula News)
Plant sale at Clallam County Fairgrounds

Katie Lee of Port Angeles examines a table of perennial plants during… Continue reading

The 2024 Community Service Awards winners gather before Thursday's awards ceremony at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Port Angeles. This year's recipients were, seated from left, Steph Ellyas and Lyn Fiveash, and standing from left, Gordon Taylor, Don Zanon, Carol Labbe and Betsy Reed Schultz. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula News)
Six honored for community service efforts

Volunteers provide energy for trails, respite care

Photo by Karen Griffiths

Cutline: A fundraiser for WAG and Open starts Today at 11 a.m. with an English and jumping fun show, followed tomorrow with a Western Games show at Kari Payne’s 4-L arena off Blue Mountain Road, 95 S. McCrorie Rd. Port Angeles.  Fox-Bell Farm owner Shelby Vaughan, and her assistants Sophie Feik and Kaia Lestage (holding Marley) will be there to host. Shown is Tatar Trots, 10. a horse Shelby got from OPEN five years ago when he was a feral, unhandled stallion and, now, after castrating and training,  he’s a docile horse who enjoys teaching kids how to ride.

 

(Rescue dog Rocky laying down if he’s shown in photo)
HORSEPLAY: Rescue program gives horses new life

SHELBY VAUGHAN WAS born into the rescue mindset. She grew up on… Continue reading

A GROWING CONCERN: For garden chores, keep the spring in your step

SO THE DREAM Playground build is going wonderfully. Thank you for those… Continue reading

ISSUES OF FAITH: Be a gracious and hospitable host

NOTICE OUR ROAD traffic is getting busier? Yep. We are beginning our… Continue reading

The Rev. Larry Schellink will present “Love God and Tie up your Camel” at 10:30 a.m. Sunday. Schellink is the guest speaker at Unity in the Olympics, 2917 E. Myrtle Ave.
Weekend program scheduled for Unity in the Olympics

The Rev. Larry Schellink will present “Love God and… Continue reading

Unitarian speaker slated in Port Angeles

Phoenix Biggs will present “Singing of Honor… Continue reading

Jaiden Dokken, at Jeanette Best Gallery in Port Townsend, is Northwind Art’s new exhibits coordinator. (Northwind Art)
Poet laureate takes on new role with Northwind Art

Artist, poet and educator Jaiden Dokken is Northwind Art’s… Continue reading

Author John Vaillant stands in front of the iconic tower at Port Angeles City Pier. (Elijah Sussman/Olympic Peninsula News Group)
Author visits Peninsula for Writer in Residence program

Vaillant awarded Shaughnessy Cohen Prize

A GROWING CONCERN: Volunteers a dream for playground

YOU, MY LOYAL readers, have been excellent the couple of times I… Continue reading

Unity in Port Townsend planning for Sunday services

Joanna Gabriel will present the lesson at 11 a.m.… Continue reading