The dandy Dandelion, symbol of summer

The rich golden yellow colour of the dandelion stands out against a backdrop of dark green foliage. It’s a common, humble flower that grows wild almost everywhere with a sunny disposition and at the same time it is eye-catching and draws attention to itself.

Dandelions although commonplace are also unique. There is no standard number of petals per head and similarly to the daisy it is a capitulum type so that each head is made up of clusters of little flowers. The dandelion ‘petals’ are in fact florets and they have serrated edges which are rather pretty and on closer inspection one can also see the forked styles rising from the florets.

The name dandelion is derived from the French name dent-de-lion or lion’s tooth due to the shape of the leaves. Flückiger and Hanbury in Pharmacographia, indicate that the name was conferred by a surgeon named Wilhelm who was so taken by the virtues of the plant that he likened it to Dens leonis (latin for lion’s tooth).  It was recently reported that changing atmospheric conditions, specifically increases in carbon dioxide levels,  may be affecting dandelion leaves so that they appear toothier in addition to making plants grow taller and stronger.

The dandelion has also been called Taraxacum officinale, meaning  the “Official Remedy for Disorders” based on its remarkable curative properties ranging from liver diseases to kidney stones. It reportedly also contains almost as much iron as spinach in addition to calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, lecithin, Vitamin A and C. Dandelion leaves are also diuretic, since they assist in flushing excess water from the body.

Dandelions have been used in several recipes ranging from salad, soup and wine to tea. One salad recipe suggests tossing together dandelion greens, red onion, and tomatoes to be seasoned with basil, salt, and pepper.

A flowering weed that is so common is often not highly regarded but the quote below is food for thought:

“What is a weed?” Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote. “A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”

The dandelion plant is however said to be a beneficial weed since it is good companion plant for gardening as its taproot will raise nutrients in the soil for shallower-rooting plants, and contributes minerals and nitrogen. It is attractive to bees and other pollinating insects and releases ethylene gas that assists fruit ripening.

The dandelion is firmly ensconced in folklore as well and the ‘dandelion clock’ gives the hour number based on the number of breaths it takes to blow off all the seeds of a dandelion globe that has gone to seed. Dandelions are also associated with love and it is also said that if you can blow all the seeds off with one blow, then you are loved with a passionate love but if any remain then your lover has some reservations about you. To bring good luck to a newly wedded couple, dandelions can be included in the bridal bouquet.

So in the sunny days of summer may you dream of dandelions and may each one you see be a symbol of hope and happiness.

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Little Dandelion

A poem by Helen Barron Bostwick

Bright little Dandelion

Lights up the meads,

Swings on her slender foot,

Telleth her beads,

Lists to the robin’s note

Poured from above;

Wise little Dandelion

Asks not for love.

Cold lie the daisy banks

Clothed but in green,

Where, in the days agone,

Bright hues were seen.

Wild pinks are slumbering,

Violets delay;

True little Dandelion

Greeteth the May.

Brave little Dandelion!

Fast falls the snow,

Bending the daffodil’s

Haughty head low.

Under that fleecy tent,

Careless of cold,

Blithe little Dandelion

Counteth her gold.

Meek little Dandelion

Groweth more fair,

Till dies the amber dew

Out from her hair.

High rides the thirsty sun,

Fiercely and high;

Faint little Dandelion

Closeth her eye.

Pale little Dandelion,

In her white shroud,

Heareth the angel-breeze

Call from the cloud;

Tiny plumes fluttering

Make no delay;

Little winged Dandelion

Soareth away.

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