Flower Spotlight: The Dandelion
Ah, the humble dandelion. Speckling lawns with golden spots. Calling to mind summers spent in the grass collecting bugs and flowers, nary a worry (except perhaps that bee that wants in your flower crown).
The Common Dandelion (Taraxacum officianale) is not native to North America, it was brought from Eurasia for its medicinal qualities. It can be identified by its basal rosette of long, oval, deeply lobed leaves from which a fuzzy stem leads up to a round yellow flower roughly 1-2 inches in diameter. There are two sets of bracts on the flower, the inner bracts form almost a tube around the ovaries of the flower, the outer bracts curve sharply downward toward the stem.
Can be found in yards, roadside, fields, other regularly disturbed areas. Rarely found in deep forests or other specialized ecosystems.
Although many think this plant a nuisance, it is in fact a very important early food source for bees and other pollinators. Beginning their bloom season March-May they are often the first food source for newly emerging bees, flies, beetles, and butterflies. It is so important these early months to let them grow in your yard, just think of the pollinators that'll stay around to pollinate your garden plants! I like to think we all know it's best not to spray chemicals on your lawn, but incase someone missed that memo: please don't spray chemicals on your lawn, let the bees and butterflies enjoy nature's flowers... let's be honest, they use your lawn more than you do! When mowing in early spring when these flowers are out, raise the mower up an extra inch and give these pollinators a chance.
If you don't care about insects, then think of yourself. Dandelion has been used by humans for hundreds of years for many purposes...
On the FDA's list of safe foods, dandelion is regularly used in a variety of medicines or a variety of ailments. Treatment of jaundice, cirrhosis, hepatitis, and liver disease, its properties are said to detoxify the liver as well as reduce the side effects of prescription medications. It's also used to treat infections, swelling, water retention, gallbladder issues, pneumonia, stimulate bile flow.
All of that and it is free for the taking (provided you didn't just spray noxious chemicals on your yard).
One of my favorite ways to enjoy dandelions (besides watching the bees) is "sweet and sour dandelions" - like sweet and sour cabbage but replace the cabbage with young dandelion greens!
Others enjoy taking the heads and making dandelion wine.
It can also be made into a lukewarm tea for health, and used as a salad green.
Since 2015 we have been exploring and sharing all the amazing things we’ve found in nature.
Emily is an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist who is most often found out in the woods.