Noticing Nature: The Dandelion

Look out at your lawn. Now look at the lawn next door. And across the street. And down the block. Compare the lawns. What do you see? Are they all the same shade of green? The same ratio of grass to clover? What about the dandelions? Pay special attention to that one neighbor. You know the one (maybe it’s you)—the neighbor with more yellow dandelion heads than anyone else. And you’re probably thinking: Ugh. Get it together people. Control your ‘lions!

Take a deep breath and then go outside and find a dandelion and look at it up close. Really, look at it. It’s beautiful! Such a delightful yellow. Dandelions are some of the happiest flowers, don’t you think?

Not convinced to love the dandelion just yet? Here are a few more reasons to appreciate these seemingly pesky weeds and embrace the dandelion!

Loving the Dandelion

1. Save the Bees

Honey bees are disappearing at an alarming rate. This has repercussions for our food production, because so many plants rely on honey bees to pollinate them in order to grow and produce fruit and vegetables. If a honey bee survives the winter, its first instinct in the spring is to avoid starvation and find food. Pollen is the bee’s ONLY protein source. There aren’t many flowers to choose from in early spring, so bees need to scramble to eat. Dandelions are among the first to bloom, which makes them key to bee survival.

2. Herbal Remedy

Dandelion is an herb, and thus has several medicinal properties. Dandelions are high in iron, potassium, beta-carotene, and vitamins A, C, and D. They have been used across cultures and throughout history to treat various health problems, including kidney disease, stomach problems, skin problems, fever, diabetes, and diarrhea. Today, dandelion leaves are used mainly to stimulate the appetite and for problems in the liver and gallbladder. (Source: University of Maryland Medical Center.)

3. Food and Drink

Dandelions aren’t just for the bees. You can eat dandelion leaves in a salad, dipped in batter and fried into a fritter, canned into jelly, or even ground into a coffee substitute. You can even make dandelion wine!  (I recommend only using dandelions that haven’t already been sprayed with herbicides. Blech.)

4. Healthy Gardens

Dandelions can be a helpful companion plant in gardens, because they attract pollinating insects that help vegetables and fruit produce. Dandelions are great companion plants for various grains and tomato plants in particular. The dandelion tap roots break up hard soil and bring up nutrients. This benefits plants with weaker or shallower roots without competing with them. They also repel Armyworms.

5. Make a Wish

Once the dandelion goes to seed, it turns into a beautiful silvery puff. Children especially delight in the tradition of making a wish on a dandelion before blowing the puff into the wind. I still love to do this! Wishing on a dandelion is whimsical and joyful, and it puts you in touch with your childlike spirit. Nothing wrong with seeking childlike delight! And while you’re at it, re-seed the lawn so you can enjoy the other benefits of dandelions listed above.

Dandelion wish

Noticing and appreciating nature is essential if we’re going to care for it and preserve it for future generations. So this summer, I’ll be writing a series called “Noticing Nature” where I explore the wondrous attributes of often ignored elements of nature around us. Subscribe to my blog in the top right corner of this page to be among the first people to get each new post in your inbox!

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