Happy Birthday
Arlington Reservoir

Dandelions are Dandy

Where have all the dandelions gone? During our oh-so-soggy spring, these little tufts of gold were everywhere, often the brightest spot on a very brown landscape, but now that summer is in full swing they've all but disappeared.  I realize that this is good news to many people and that there's a whole industry devoted to the eradication of these shaggy, golden orbs, but I miss them.

Dandelion and tree 051311
Dandelions are just as bright and cheerful as daffodils, that other golden sign of spring.   The dandelion is not as tall as the daffodil, in fact it's usually about the same height as the grass around it.  Could height be the reason why one is adored and the other hated?  If so, then why aren't buttercups reviled?  They, like dandelions, grow along roads and across lawns but I've never seen a commercial for a product promising to leave your lawn buttercup free. 

Buttercup 2010
Maybe people's frustration with dandelions is that they are so uncontrollable.  I was surprised when I learned that dandelions were actually brought to North America by English settlers.  They wanted the flowers for their nutritional properties.  Of course, like energetic children, the flowers refused to just stay put.  Each flower becomes a ball of mini seed-gliders, perfectly designed for maximum spread, sometimes traveling several miles.

White dandelion 052211
Of course, as anyone who has ever planted tulip or daffodil bulbs knows, these plants have a way of migrating as well.  It's not uncommon to see a single bloom in the woods, far from a tended garden, or in the middle of a yard.  I like to call these transplants "squirrel gardens".  

  Squirrel garden 2010

I think the common dislike of dandelions can be traced to the adage "a weed is a plant growing where you don't want it to".  I'd go so far as to say a weed is a plant you didn't have to buy.  We'll spend large amounts of time and money to plant swaths of flowers across our property, but a flower that can do this on its own is unappreciated. 

Contrary daffodil 041611 A most contrary daffodil

So aside from its incredible survival skills and gorgeous color, what's there to like about dandelions?  I read in Yankee magazine this spring that dandelions greens, especially those first tiny spikes are for many people a taste of spring.  I was all set to try them this year, and was scoping out locations where I'd be likely to find ones which hadn't been chemically treated, when I read in a recipe, "If you love bitter greens like arugula, you'll adore dandelions".  I do not love, I do not even like arugula.  Eating dandelions was clearly not for me.  Which leaves all the reasons I liked dandelions as a kid.

  • Like daisies (which are much less common) they can easily be made into chains - bracelets, necklaces, and crowns.
  • Did kids at anyone else's school pick dandelions and sing "Mama had a baby and its head popped off"?  Of course we used our thumbs to make the flower-head pop off.
  • You can pick dandelions with your toes.  Yes, I spent a lot of time barefoot as a kid.
  • They make a neat cross between a paintbrush and a stamp.
  • No one ever tells you to stop picking the dandelions, so you can use them to decorate your bike, have water races, color your skin yellow, you name it.
  • Birthday wishes only come once a year, but there are infinite dandelions to make a wish on and blow.

Codman farm tree 051311





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