Early in the spring, bright cheery yellow flowers seem to pop up everywhere. We picked them as kids and lovingly gave our moms Dandelion bouquets. When the yellow flower went to seed it was so much fun sucking in our breath and blowing on the fluffy seed heads and watch them become airborne as the wind carried them upward in the sunny blue sky.
But then we became adults and lost our childhood innocence, we were told the bright yellow flower was evil, a pest, and must be eradicated at all costs! Someone told us we must have perfectly green lawns void of any wildflower big or small. The endless sea of bluegrass must be maintained! Of all the wildflowers in the lawn, the Dandelion is the most despicable and it must be destroyed. The Dandelion is our enemy! If not destroyed, neighbors will get angry, the Neighborhood Association will be called and fines issued. Horrors of horrors someone may call the City and report you have a field of weeds!
On my daily walk I have been admiring a yard dotted with blue and white violets, little blue Speedwell, clover, and Dandelions. The front yard looks like a mini meadow. Americans spend millions of dollars every year on a host of herbicides to kill the wicked weeds. Roger Swain, long time host of the PBS garden show, The Victory Garden, laments people in our country spends millions on killing wildflowers in our lawns and millions more fertilizing our lawns. The irony is clover naturally takes nitrogen from the air and stores it in their roots and adds to nitrogen, as a fertilizer back into the soil. Of course the poison is in our grass where children play, pets run, and where we run barefoot and track the poison in our homes on our shoes. The toxic run off pollutes our ground water, streams and rivers. Then we turn around and drink the water. Then we scratch our heads and wonder why cancer and other aliments seem to be increasing at an alarming rate. And not least, it is certainly not good for birds, bees, fish and other wildlife.
Over thirty species of wildlife feast on Dandelions. Several birds, including song birds such as goldfinches and sparrows eat the seeds. Other animals like wild turkeys, rabbits, deer, and chipmunks love dining on Dandelions.
Over ninety species of insects collect and drink Dandelion nectar. If you want bees and several species of butterflies such as the Sulphur’s, and the Admirals to soar around in your yard, leave the Dandelions be and let them grow!
The Dandelion wasn’t always so hated. Our forefathers held the Dandelion in high esteem. It was used for both food and medical purposes. A Facebook friend who resides in Thailand, a land of incredibly beautiful and exotic plants told me he visited Germany and fell in love with the beautiful yellow flower. He dug up a small Dandelion and returned home and planted it. It sadden him the Dandelion did not do well in his climate and died.
My mom has told me stories of how her and her father would gather up fresh green Dandelion leaves in early spring and cook them with bacon grease for wilted greens. Sometimes they would use the leaves and flowers in a fresh salad. Scientist tell us Dandelion leaves are full of Vitamin A, higher in beta carotene (even more than carrots) and calcium (more than spinach) They are provide iron, and all the B Vitamins, and Vitamins C and D. Wine is made from the flowers and a coffee substitute is made from the roots, as well as a root vegetable used in soups.
When I was younger I would watch a lawn company come to my neighbor’s home and spray poison on her lawn several times during the growing season. The herbicide people wore masks and wore white footies over their shoes. Then they placed little flags around the parameter of her yard warning people the lawn had been sprayed. Even as a young person I questioned the sanity of it all. While there may be no correlation, both my neighbor and her cat died of cancer.
It is so ironic that so many feel the Dandelion is “Public Enemy #1!” But in reality what we are doing to eradicate the bright yellow Dandelion wildflower, is poisoning ourselves, wildlife, and polluting our water and making us our own worse enemy!
Born and raised in Ohio Rick presently lives in an old house in a small central Ohio town, famous for its giant gourds. Rick comes from a family of avid gardeners. Now retired, he had the privilege to work with people with disabilities for over thirty years. His tiny city garden is crammed with an assortment or a collection of plants. During the long cold Ohio winters he continues gardening in the house and in his small backyard greenhouse. He is passionate about plants and writing. In his youth he traveled the world. The diversity of plants around the world is amazing! He especially enjoyed my time teaching in a bush school in Africa and spending a summer with the legendary Masai Tribe on the Serengeti Plain. For years, he has enjoyed the study of the ancient uses for plants and herbs. Many cultures today still believe in the magical qualities of plants. Grow a tomato, a tree, or plant some tulip bulbs, or grow some herbs in your kitchen window. It will make you feel good and you will be making our world a better place!