This section is from the book "Wayside And Woodland Blossoms", by Edward Step. Also available from Amazon: Wayside And Woodland Blossoms: A Guide To British Wild-Flowers.
Taraxacum officinale. - Compositae. Hordeum is the old Latin name for barley. Flowers June and July.
Everyone thinks he knows the Dandelion when he sees it and probably he does; but often when he sees a Hawkbit he believes it to be a Dandelion. We may not like to find the Dandelion taking possession of our lawn, but we should regret to miss it from the odd corners by the fence and the roadside. It is a flower of three seasons, for it blooms continuously from March to October, and it is no unusual thing to see its golden flower in winter.
This is a Composite flower, like the Daisy, but whereas the Daisy head was seen to be made up of a host of tubular flowers, with a single outer row of ligulate, or strap-shaped ones, those of the Dandelion are all ligulate. It therefore stands as a representative of the second series of Composite genera. The plant has no proper stem, the leaves springing directly from the long, thick root. From their midst arise the flower-heads on their hollow stalks. The floral envelope (involucre) consists of a double row of scales (bracts), the inner long, the outer shorter. The outer are turned back and clasp the stalk, the inner erect. Take off a single floret and examine with a lens. It will be seen that each is a perfect flower, containing both anthers and stigmas. The ovary is crowned by the corolla, which is invested by a pappus of soft white silky hairs. Within the corolla the five anthers unite to form a tube, in which is the style, which divides above into two stigmas. After fertilization the corollas wither, the inner bracts closing over them while the fruits grow. Then the bracts open again, each pappus spreads into a parachute, and the whole of them constitute the fluffy ball by which children feign to tell the time. A light wind detaches them, and they float off to disperse the seeds far and wide. The only British species.
The name is believed to be derived from two Greek words, Taraxos, disorder, and akos, remedy: in allusion to its well-known medicinal qualities as an alterative.