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Nature Notebook – Ode to a Dandelion

An ode to the dandelion…a little early or late in the season, you say? We just saw one blooming this week!

Dandelions can be found in almost any kind of habitat, from alpine meadows to wetlands. The deep taproot allows survival in deserts and will also sprout new plants. The seeds, formed with and without pollen fertilization, can float on the wind for five miles. The leaves remain green year-round so they have a head start on spring growth.

Until the advent of manicured lawns, the common dandelion was a prized garden element. Gardeners would remove grass and other weeds so their dandelions could flourish! Full of vitamins A (more than carrots) and C (more than tomatoes), potassium (more than bananas), iron and calcium, they are more nutritious than most garden vegetables. Dandelions were, and still are, used in a wide variety of medicinal herb concoctions.

Although reviled by lawn enthusiasts, dandelions are actually good for grass. Those incredible root systems aerate the soil and draw nutrients (e.g., calcium) up where the more shallow-rooted turf grasses can use them.

Finally, one has to begrudgingly admire a plant that “learns” how to avoid the mower blades!