Name from tarasso, to disquiet, in allusion to its medicinal properties.
Perennial. Perhaps our most common weed; with basal leaves, brilliant yellow flowers and milky juice. Introduced and indigenous. Everywhere. January to December.
Large, whitish, bitter.
Basal,"oblong to spatulate in outline, coarsely and irregularly toothed, with teeth projecting backward; juice milky.
Erect, hollow, milky, bearing a large solitary head of flowers.
Composite, golden yellow, solitary, one to two inches across, containing one hundred and fifty to two hundred perfect ray florets on a flat receptacle at the top of a hollow scape two to eighteen inches high.
Of two rows of bracts; outer row of short bracts reflexed; inner row of long linear bracts erect.
Tube united with the ovary, the pappus crowning its summit composed of many soft white bristles.
Strap-shaped or ray florets, all having both stamens and pistils; each strap with five small teeth.
Five, with anthers united into a tube.
One; style two-cleft at the apex.
Akenes oblong, ribbed, rough; the apex prolonged into a slender beak attached to abundant soft, white pappus, all of one head together forming when mature a silky white globe.
Pollinated by many insects; capable of self-fertilization. Pistil matures later than the stamens. Abundant nectar.
"Dear common flower that grow'st beside the way Fringing the dusty road with harmless gold."
Anna B. Comstock, writing of the Dandelion, says: "I always look at a Dandelion and talk to it as if it were a real person. One spring, when all the vegetables in my garden were callow weaklings, I found there in their midst a Dandelion rosette with ten great leaves spreading out and completely shading a circle ten inches in diameter. I said: 'Look here, Madame, this is my garden!' and I pulled up the squatter. But I could not help paying admiring tribute to the tap-root, which lacked only an inch of being a foot in length. It was smooth, white, fleshy, and when cut bled a milky juice, showing that it was full of food. It was as strong from the end pull as a whipcord; it also had a bunch of rather fine rootlets about an inch below the surface of the soil and an occasional rootlet farther down; and then I said: 'Madame, I beg your pardon; I think this is your garden, and not mine.' "
Consider the Dandelion! Roadsides and lawns, hamlet and village are all in the grasp of this wonderful plant. Upon what meat does this our floral Caesar feed that it has grown so great? What are the tactics of our golden lord? Study shows us that they are many and all successful. In late autumn and early spring one finds rosettes of Dandelion leaves covering waste places, forming in gardens and lawns, preempting a circle of soil space three to six inches in diameter; other plants within that circle are smothered, so each has that much space to itself.
Dandelion. Taraxacum dens-leonis
Underground it has a strong tap-root, reinforced with many fibrous rootlets and capable of digging deep for moisture. The stem which bears its flower-head to light and air is a hollow tube, the strongest form of structure.
But its blossom and its fruit are, after all, its greatest means of success. It belongs to the great Composite group, a group whose flowers have acquired the ability to help one another. In each Dandelion head there are from one hundred and fifty to two hundred separate flowers. Each tiny flower has an open strap corolla united below into a tube, five stamens whose anthers have grown together, and a pistil with a divided style. As each of the two hundred flowers ripens a seed with a balloon attachment, we need not wonder that the plant is a weed. The blossom opens upon a very short stem, but as the seeds begin to mature the stem lengthens, usually lying along the ground, and when the globe of seeds is ready to expand it rises and, erect, bears them into the air and sunshine.
The plant is fortunate also in the character of its involucre. In the bud tightly wrapped about the little family of flowers, this protects them as if it were a calyx. When the head expands the involucre bracts open and turn back just far enough to make a shallow cup to contain the flowers. After these have faded the involucre closes up a second time to protect the ripening seeds. Finally, when the last act in the life history is approaching and the stem is ready to lift the fairy seed globe into the air, the involucre folds itself back out of the way and leaves each little seed free to fly with its own parachute wherever the wind may carry it.
The Dandelion blooms early and blooms late, will grow on all soils, and its blossoms brim with nectar so that no insect need go away hungry. If insects do not come it can fertilize itself. Considering all these things, the wonder is not why there are so many Dandelions but why there are no more.
The beauty of the Dandelion blossom is beyond words. Its fairy ball of seeds is one of the most exquisite of floral forms, and each seed, equipped with silvery wings, intrusts its fortune to the wind and sails away, east of the sun and west of the moon, in search of a home. Early to bed and early to rise is the family law of the Dandelions. Glowing in the sunlight, at nightfall they vanish; each involucre draws its protecting cover over its own yellow florets. It is one of the sights of the morning to see a field of Dandelions wake up under the rays of bright spring sunshine. They fairly twinkle out, like stars. Worshippers of the sun, if it becomes cloudy or dark they close again.
The struggle of lawn-owners to keep the Dandelion out of their enclosure is pathetic as well as ineffectual. It can only be accomplished by eternal vigilance, and then success is brief. Personally, I would pardon much if only the blossoms would remain open after they are picked.
The Dandelion gets its name not from the golden blossom but from the foliage. The word is a corruption of the French dent-de-lion (lion's tooth) and refers to the jagged edges of the leaves.