Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)


Asteraceae/Compositae (ASTER/COMPOSITE FAMILY)

Plant Type: This is a non-native herbaceous plant, it is a perennial which can reach 38cm in height (15inches).

Leaves: This plant has basal leaves only. Each leaf is toothed or lobed.

Flowers: The flowers have numerous parts and are up to 4.5cm wide (1.75 inches). They are yellow. Blooms first appear in mid spring and continue into early winter.

Fruit: Small seeds arranged in a sphere attached to umbrella like sails and becoming airborne when mature.

Habitat: Fields, fence rows, gardens, thin woods and especially lawns.

Photographic Location: Sycamore Ridge Ranch in Middle Tennessee.

Euell Gibbons in his classic book Stalking the Wild Asparagus devotes over four pages to the many tasty dishes that can be made from this common plant while homeowners and greens keepers spend millions of dollars on toxins to eliminate Dandelions from their lawns. A deep tap root and seeds that mature quickly and are widely dispersed on the wind combined with and almost year round blooming season make this a tough weed to eliminate. I heard of a botanist who when ask by a lady at a garden club meeting what to do about the Dandelions in her yard replied “Learn to love them”. Good advice if you ask me.

Lore: Dandelion was intentionally introduced to this country by early settlers because of its value as a tonic. Long winters without fresh vegetables often resulted in malnutrition and the vitamins derived from consuming Dandelions restored the health of suffers in the new world as well as the old. The root could be found even in winter and the juice extracted and given as a tonic. The young leaves picked before the flower forms make a healthful and delicious green. The tinder crown found below the ground can be eaten in salads or cooked. The roots can be peeled, sliced and boiled in two waters to remove the bitterness and eaten. The root can be roasted and ground for a coffee substitute. The flowers can be used to make Dandelion Wine. In addition to food and medicine the plant also provides dye in two colors, yellow from the flowers and red from the root. If you decide to try a dish of Dandelions be sure that you don’t collect any from a lawn that may have been treated with herbicides.

Medical Uses: As the scientific name implies this plant was considered an ‘Official’ remedy. It was, and is, an effective treatment for conditions due to a deficiency in vitamins A and C. It is thought to be a diuretic and mild laxative. Those allergic to latex should avoid contact.

Text  by © Daniel Reed 2000/2002

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