The Common Dandelion -a Dandy Herb

Notes from a Lancashire Countryman.

The dandelion is an extremely common wild herb in the countryside and urban localities, or as many a gardener will testify a persistent weed in lawns, between paving stones and other aspects of the garden. In this perception it is a troublesome weed that persists in staying when even the greatest endeavour has been employed to remove it. This is because the dandelion produces seed throughout the year. The wind blown plumes {pappus} carry the seeds parachute -like far from the parentplant and they all seem as though they have chosen your garden in which to land..

Field of dandelion

Dandelions flower in uncountable numbers during late spring and early summer. Photograph by D.A.L.
Dandelions flower in uncountable numbers during late spring and early summer. Photograph by D.A.L.

Basic Biology of the Dandelion

Root----is a thick long tap root, which is darkish on the outside though the interior is white and milky.

Leaves--- The long jagged leaves radiate from the root and form a rosette which lies close to the ground.This arrangement shades out other germinating species of flora and denies grasses the light and water they need to survive. nature has decreed that each leaf is grooved and fashioned in such a way that the rain water runs down the centre of each leaf to feed the root, thus keeping it well nourished.

The fliage is shiny and without hairs. The jagged lobes are upright or slightly, pointing backwards. When held out in a horizontal manner the leaf the resembles the jaw and teeth of the lion. From this fanciful resemblance the plant acquired its common name, via the French Dente de Leon, tooth of the lion.

Flowers and seeds.--the hairless, purplish green flower stalks, rise straight from the root, and are leafless and smooth. They are hollow and bear single flowerheads. The stem exudes a milky sap, which is present throughout the plant. The flower heads are composed of numerous strap-shaped florets of a bright golden yellow colour. The edge of the strap shaped florets are notched in to five teeth.

If the dandelion was an uncommon species it would be much admired for its small chrysanthemum like blooms. They are a great source of pollen and nectar for bees producing a succession of blooms, { although the main bulk of the flowers are encountered in April, May and June}. Studies have revealed that the flower heads are visited by over 90 species of insects.

At the base of each flower head is a ring of narrow leaf like bracts collectively known as the involucre, some support the flower head some bend right back towards the stem. In fine weather, all parts of the flower head are outstretched to greet the sun. However, should cloud threaten rain the whole flower closes up. Studies have shown that the flower closes early evening to protect itself from heavy dew, however, it does seem to be dependent on the intensity of light. By 8am in the morning, if the weather is fine they open up again to meet the day.

When the florets fade the seeds crowned with their tufts of hairs become a large gossamer globe.These are called by children dandelion "clocks" Blowing at the plumes and counting the puffs supposedly told the time. For example 5 puffs to clear the head meant it was five'o'clock. When the wind has removed all the seeds the central disc becomes bare surrounded by drooping bracts.They then have a fanciful resemblance to the head of medieval friars who had their hair cut in such a manner. Thus country people gave them the title of "Priests' crown".

Seedlings that emerge in spring may flower in the same year. Established plants bloom late spring and early summer. They may also have a second flush of flowers in the autumn. {fall}. The time from flowering to seed ripening is about 9-14 days. The flower head is capable of producing up to 400 seeds. The germination ratio is between 80-90%. Many seedlings emerge in the first two years after departing from the parent plant. Birds also help with distribution. They over winter as a small rosette.

Some other species of dandelion occur in Britain for example the lesser dandelion Taraxacum brachyglossom, a plant of dry grassland, dunes and chalk downs; The red veined dandeliontaraxacum, ssp Spectabilis, often found on mountain pastures and on ledges; Narrow leaved marsh dandelion Taraxacum ssppalustris is found in open grassy places in marshes and fens and along riversides. However, has we have seen these species have a somewhat specialised habitat.

Dandelion seed head

The gossamer globe of of the seed head appear after the flowers have faded. Photograph by D.A.L.
The gossamer globe of of the seed head appear after the flowers have faded. Photograph by D.A.L.

Medicinal and Culinary Virtues of This Herb.

The dandelion is one of the most useful herbs, being so abundant in many localities. Almost every part of the plant can be utilised in one way or another. The flowers, the leaves and the root.

The youngleaves{small and fresh} may be boiled as a vegetable in the manner one would cook spinach, then drained well and sprinkled with seasoning. They may then be moistened with soup or butter, and served hot. The foliage has long been utilised in herb beers being a favourite beverage of country folk in days gone by. The young foliage has long been used to eat with salads.

The flowers have been employed to produce a dandelionwine. When mature the wine is reminiscent of sherry and was considered to be an excellent tonic and a purifier of blood.

The roots were dug up , cleaned and then roasted on a tray in the oven, then ground up to producedandelion coffee. Roots dug up in the autumn{ fall}, were said to favourable for this use. The flavour is reminiscent of true coffee and of better value as regards human health. It ahas a stimulant affect without causing wakefulness.

Herbalist, in days gone by, used the juice of the roots in herbal preparations. Dandelion tea produced by infusing the young leaves with boiling water has well documented diuretic properties. It is of great benefit to those who suffer from water retention. This potassium rich tea is a refreshing drink.

Active ingredients include bitters, tannins, some essential oil and flavonoides. Modern day uses include the treatment of liver and gall bladder problems. and the foliage has a diuretic. It is also a good blood purifier.

As with all herbs and conventional medicine. Take a little at a time when first using the herb to check your tolerance level.

Fresh young foliage

fresh young leaves such as these are required for salads and beverages. Photograph by D.A.L.
fresh young leaves such as these are required for salads and beverages. Photograph by D.A.L.
After the main flush of flowers  single specimens may be found in flower throughout the year. Photograph by D.A.L.
After the main flush of flowers single specimens may be found in flower throughout the year. Photograph by D.A.L.

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Comments 15 comments

D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Hi Yard of Nature, thank you for your visit. The dandelion wine is a good prize in its own right.cheers.


Yard of nature profile image

Yard of nature 6 years ago from Michigan

Hooray for the dandelion! Nice hub. A writer friend of mine just came back from competing in a dandelion recipe cook-off. She didn't win, but did get a bottle of dandelion wine for trying.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Hi,Carol, you are so right , if the dandelion was a rare species many people would seek them out to admire their blooms. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment.


reddog1027 profile image

reddog1027 6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

D.A.L.

I don't know about anyone else but dandelions are one of my favorite wild flowers. When the dandelions start to bloom, I know that spring has really arrived. And who couldn't love those bright little suns scattered across the landscape? As I tell the "let us spray chemicals on your yard" people, "If you get rid of all my dandelions, I wouldn't have a lawn".


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Linda, your welcome. thank you for visiting and for taking the time to comment.

Amber, Glad you agree about the dandelion, thank you for reading and for leaving a comment, it is appreciated.


Amber Allen profile image

Amber Allen 6 years ago

The Dandelion is very under rated indeed. Your hub will help address this. Well done. Amber:)


Linda Myshrall 6 years ago

Hi D.A.L., When we lived in the western, U.S., we had them everywhere, and I always thought they were pretty. :) Before my husband took over the lawn (because I thought dandelions were pretty) I do remember them closing up at night, which I always liked. I am curious about eating the small leaves, and I can't wait to try that. Thumbs up on this, Linda


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

2patricias, thank you for your visit. Pat is probably right.Ha Ha. Thank you for your comment it is appreciated.


2patricias profile image

2patricias 6 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

This is a very interesting Hub. Pat is convinced that a special species of super-large dandelions grows in her garden. It is some consolation that this plant feeds so many different types of insect.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

jayjay40, thank you for your appreciated comment, your quite right about dandelion tea.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

marcbennis, thank for reading and for leaving your comment. Wish I knew as much as Ray Mears mate


jayjay40 profile image

jayjay40 6 years ago from Bristol England

Dandelion tea is great if you have water retention. Great hub as always


markbennis 6 years ago

Very interesting D.A.L I would never of known any of this until you brought it to light, well done! Dandelion coffee wow.. I think Ray Mears should have you on one of his documentaries..


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Darlene, thank you for being the first to visit, my friend. dandelions are more than a weed, depends on your view. thanks for commenting . Be over soon to yours.


Darlene Sabella profile image

Darlene Sabella 6 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

Wonder history and story of the dandelion, I enjoy this hub and I always thought it was a weed, and people with perfect lawns are so busy pulling them up before they seed. In Taos New Mexico they us then in salads, the stems I think...thumb up and stop by and see a few of my new hugs. Darski

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