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The lowly dandelion: It’s got some good points

Dandelions are creeping up in lawns all over suburbia. (Sheryl DeVore/Tribune)

Dandelions are creeping up in lawns all over suburbia. (Sheryl DeVore/Tribune)

Dandelions are cropping up in lawns all over suburbia and the city–and that’s got homeowners screaming as it usually does this time of year. Some of them hand pick the dandelions; others douse them with chemicals. But there are  some good points about these yellow-flowered invaders, as well as some interesting facts about the plant that came from Europe more than a century ago.

The French named this European native dente de lion — which means lion’s tooth in Old French. That phrase stems from the deeply toothed leaves of this plant.  English-speaking people changed the name to dandelion.

Dandelions grow best in wet, sunny conditions. They fade in the dry heat of summer, then return as cooler weather approaches in fall.

They proliferate so quickly because they don’t need any help from pollinators. They self-pollinate and each seed head contains dozens of seeds that can plant more dandelions.

Here are some good points about the plant referred to in Ray Bradbury’s classic, “Dandelion Wine.”

*The early tender leaves can be used in salads (but don’t use any that have been chemically treated). The leaves are loaded with nutrients and minerals.

*Bees and butterflies  sip nectar from the flowers.  If you’re a honey bee farmer, that’s a good thing.

*White-crowned sparrows and other spring migratory birds eat the seeds for nutrition.

*When they go to seed, the flowers turn into a puffy white seed head–and that’s when adults and children can blow them into the wind, scattering the seeds. An old legend says that the number of breaths it takes to rid the dandelion of all of it seeds  can tell you the time. Ten breaths means it’s 10 o’clock. Of course, that’s not true, but it can be a fun activity with children.

*Getting down on your hands and knees and picking dandelions can be good exercise.

*If all else fails, make yourself some dandelion wine.


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