This section is from the "The New Student's Reference Work Volume 5: How And Why Stories" by Elinor Atkinson.
In the spring, the grass that bordered the cement walk around the wild garden was not two inches high before it began to be dotted with the golden rosettes of the dandelion. When the warm fingers of the children closed around a bunch of short stems, the flowers soon closed into green-sheathed buds that refused to open again. So a boy who didn't like to come to school, but who did like to roam in the fields and woods, was sent to bring in a whole plant. He was gone an hour, but he brought a fine plant, and such a fine story of how he got it that he fairly ran back to school.
At first he tried to pull a plant up by the root. But the flower stems and leaves broke away. Then he dug around the base of a plant a little way, and got hold of the crown of the root. That snapped an inch below the ground, breaking off a stout root half an inch thick. At last he went home and got a long, thin-bladed, table knife, that he sank in the soil to the handle and slipped all the way around the root to loosen the soil. When he pulled, the root snapped six inches under ground, leaving the tip buried there. Then, for he was a clever, determined boy who wouldn't give up, something like a dandelion in that, he dug a trench around the plant and sank the knife deeper. He tried six times before he got a whole, unbroken root. But he got it!
"Bravo! Stout little lion-tooth; you know how to hold on!" said the teacher, clapping her hands. The children were puzzled. Did she mean the boy or the plant? Perhaps both.
"Lion-tooth?" cried a dozen excited voices. Why, yes. The French people long ago noticed that this wayside flower has a narrow, tooth-notched leaf, so they called it dent-du-lion. In England, where the meaning of the name was not known, it was changed to dandelion. You know a tooth doctor is a dent-ist. Very likely the lion part of the name was given because this kind of plant is king of all plants, as the lion is king of the animals. The English people had a name of their own for it. They called it Peasant's Clock. A peasant is a farmer. Farmers have to get up early and go to bed early. The dandelion opens its yellow eye at four o'clock and shuts it at eight or nine—a very good clock for farmers. Another old English name for it is Blow Ball, because of its gauzy, feathered seed globe that every wind scatters.
The root of the dandelion is round, rough, tapering from crown to tip, almost black on the outside, brittle but tough, hollow in the middle, giving it strength with lightness, and with many root-hair water suckers. The leaves grow in spreading, flattened circles from the crown, with the flower stems set around the inner circle. Rain, falling on leaves and flowers, drains right into the hollow root. So the dandelion begins to use water at once.
The dandelion opens day after day, the blossom head growing larger, and its stem stretching and lengthening into a hollow, rubbery pipe. When pulled the stem stretches a little, like rubber, before it snaps. And out of the broken end oozes a thick, milky sap that stains the hands brown and makes them feel sticky. The sap of the rubber tree is a thick, milky fluid much like that of the dandelion. The dandelion has some rubber, resin, sugar, and a bitter medicine in its sap. Do you know of any other milky-sapped plants? Milkweed!