Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

The bright yellow flowers and spherical seedhead (clock) make this plant instantly recognisable. The mid-yellow flowers provide its common English name Dandelion. Translated from the French Dent de lion, meaning: lions tooth, referring literally to the plants coarsely toothed leaves. Its common folk name wet the bed refers to the strong diuretic effect of its roots. Similar names are also found in French and Italian. 

Photo credit: Caroline McCusker

Dandelions were adored by the Victorians, who considered them delicacies commonly eaten in their sandwiches and salads. Dandelion was also the main ingredient in traditional soft drink Dandelion and Burdock and remains one of the ingredients of root beer, dandelion wine and coffee. Possibly a reason for their appeal is that they contain abundant vitamins and minerals especially vitamins a, c and k as well as calcium, iron and manganese. It was also the Victorians who would pull grass out of their lawns to make room for dandelions – a somewhat contradiction to recent gardening trends!

Photo by Paul Hunter, Dixon Playing Fields 

In line with current trends, dandelions are considered a persistent lawn weed common to shrub borders and cracks in pavements. Because of their long tap root, it is hard to remove them by digging alone. They have also very hardy seeds which can travel (like tiny parachutes) as far as 5 miles before they land. Dandelion pollen isn’t particularly nutritious, compared to clover and vetches but it is available when little else is in flower. They are a reliable source of food for many birds and insects particularly the earliest emerging. It is common to see pollen beetles crammed onto a flower in late February, perhaps to get its fix. Beneficially, dandelions also have one of the longest flowering seasons of any plant.   

Where to find it?

This plant is like many of the other Connswater Community Greenway Wildflowers – you’ll find them everywhere. You will also find it thanks to its unique seeds, growing in many obscure places like cracks in walls & pavements and always in derelict ground.

Be Part of it…

An interesting fact of the Dandelion is that it opens to greet the sun in the morning and closes again at night to go to sleep. We would love to see any pictures you might be able to take of it wakening up.