Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Spring Has Sprung—and So Have the Dandelions

They’re baaaack. Here in Ontario, since the province banned the use of cosmetic pesticides six years ago, dandelions have taken over. Public green spaces are a sea of yellow.

As much as we adults hate dandelions, kids see them as pretty flowers that grownups are happy to let them pick. My girls love collecting dandelions to make bouquets. I’ve had many a vase full of withering yellow blooms adorning my kitchen table. When the plants go to seed, the girls delight in blowing the fluff into the air and making a wish.

Since pesticides are harmful to wildlife as well as humans, I’m happy it’s been outlawed here. I sometimes use a hand weeder on my lawn, but usually we just mow the offenders down. It’s useless to try eradicating the dandelions. The plants look ugly once they go to seed, but are they really so bad?

Did you know that dandelions are actually good for your lawn? Their wide-spreading roots loosen hard-packed soil, aerate the earth and help reduce erosion. The taproot brings up nutrients such as calcium from deep in the soil, benefiting shallower-rooting plants. Dandelions attract pollinating insects and release ethylene gas, which helps fruit to ripen.
And did you know that dandelions have been used for food throughout history? The Victorian gentry ate dandelions in salads and sandwiches. The leaves contain nutrients such as vitamins A, C and K, calcium, potassium, iron and manganese. The flower petals are used to make dandelion wine and the roots can be used as a caffeine-free coffee.

Dandelions were also prized for their medicinal properties. They were known to the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, and have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over a thousand years. Dandelion tonics have been used to treat infections, bile and liver problems, and as a diuretic. To this day, they are used as a herbal remedy the world over.

Well, if we can’t beat them, we might as well appreciate the benefits dandelions have to offer.

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  1. Well, Susan, you can try telling my husband they're a good plant. LOL!

  2. I love this post, Susan. In the northeastern US there is a beautiful goldfinch that relies on dandelions.