Most people think of dandelions as a weed.  Not me.  No sir.

To me dandelions are a wildflower – something to be admired for its beauty and cherished for its many positive qualities. The word dandelion literally means lion’s tooth.

At this point you are probably wondering, why is Neil focused on dandelions?  Well, the honest answer is that someone I care about recently responded to something that I had said with the comment “that’s just dandy”. I immediately countered with “you are my dandelion”, using it as a term of endearment.

Needless to say, a spirited discussion ensued, which seemed to turn on whether a dandelion is viewed as a weed or a wildflower.

Back to the real issue – is a dandelion a weed or a wildflower?

Knowing that this can be a heated debate, at a minimum I trust we can agree that the dandelion is a plant with yellow flowers.  Growing to a height of up to 12 inches, it’s stems have bright yellow flowers on top, each with spatula like leaves channeling rainwater to its root.

And we hopefully can agree that this perennial is beautiful – at least in the eyes of this beholder.  The dandelion’s flowers open with the sun in the morning and close in the evening and with gloomy weather.  When dandelions billowy seed heads bloom it is a sure sign of spring.  The word that comes to my mind is cheerful.

Granted, it does propagate ferociously. However, that by itself does not make it a weed.  To be a weed, it has to grow where it is not wanted.  Some locations hold “dandelion demolitions” to get rid of what they consider to be a weed, because they don’t want dandelions there.  To others, dandelions are a wildflower.

Let’s take a look at what the dandelion has to offer over and above its beauty.

For one, it has many potential health benefits.  The leaves, stem, flower and roots of the dandelion can be used for medicinal purposes.

Whole dandelion plant with root on a table, top view

While more research is needed, preliminary primarily animal studies suggest that…

  • Dandelions have potassium which helps reduce blood pressure.
  • They can serve as a remedy for constipation and other digestive issues.
  • The plant can reduce damaging UV light and thereby keep skin healthier.
  • Dandelions help limit the growth of hepatitis B, which helps boost the immune system.
  • The plant helps reduce inflammation in the body.
  • It helps regulate blood sugar levels in the body.
  • The plant can help lower a person’s cholesterol.
  • Since dandelions contain beta-carotene, an antioxidant, cells are protected better.
  • It may aid in reducing weight gain, since the plant has the chemical chlorogenic acid.
  • The plant may aid in fighting colon, liver and pancreatic cancer.

Secondly, the dandelion is edible.  Dandelions are referred to as an herb by botanists.  It contains vitamins A, B, C and D, as well as minerals potassium, iron and zinc.  Some say dandelions are “the most nutritionally dense green you can eat – outstripping either kale or spinach.”  It is used as a salad green and also in soups, wine and tea.  It is one of the ingredients in root beer.  It was considered a delicacy by Victorian gentry.

And dandelions are not just eaten by humans. Animals eat them, including the black bear, deer and elk.

Thirdly, the dandelions are important to our ecosystem.  Specifically, the flower is food for caterpillars, moths and butterflies.  The flowers are utilized by bees and other pollinators and can be an important nectar source early in the season when few other flowers are blooming.

And finally, it has a spiritual role too. It has been a Western tradition for someone to blow out a dandelion seedhead and think of a wish they want to come true.

Bottom line for me is that dandelions are to be cultivated.  And, if you are going to call someone you care about “your dandelion,” make sure that they understand that you are referring not to the weed, but to the wildflower.

6 thoughts on “Dandelions”

  1. Well said!! If only they didn’t grow through the grass, where they get mowed down way before their time.

  2. Wow, I have renewed respect for dandelions. Our property is full of them. Thanks for the education.

  3. Neil, ask any of your Italian friends we’ve been eating them all our lives! Waste not, want not! Love your articles!

  4. You have just created a conflicts for this mower and keeper of lawns. What’s a home owner to do? Transplant them from the lawn to the ….. ?

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