Dandelions: A love / hate relationship

I look out my window and see the yellow flowers of spring. My daffodils look great in the landscape.

However, my lawn once again contains dandelion flowers.

My father enthusiastically looked forward to this time of year. He even had a special knife he reserved for cutting the tender early leaves of the dandelion plants in our yard. My mother would take the leaves he harvested to prepare his favorite salad featuring a hot bacon dressing.

I have a friend named Joe who even has a special place he found where the plants are not treated with any chemicals. He continues to enjoy a similar dandelion salad.

People enjoy dandelion plants in many ways while others just see it as a common weed.

Dandelion — Taxacum officianale — is called lion’s tooth, priest’s crown, blow-ball and many other names.

The dandelion has a crown of leaves, a thick fleshy long taproot, yellow flowers and white puffy ball shaped seed heads on a hollow stem. It is found in many areas and most insects will collect pollen from its flowers. Dandelions provide a valuable feed source for honeybees in the spring. To help the honeybees, you may want to reconsider getting rid of those yellow flowers in your yard.

Dandelions propagate from the wind-blown, parachute-like seeds and root cuttings. The seeds can remain fertile for years. Therefore, try to have the children be careful where they blow the seeds off that blow-ball. The plant is not poisonous, so the children can have a lot of fun picking flowers bouquets.

Dandelion is considered a valuable herb in many countries and is actually cultivated in Europe. The leaves and flowers are a rich source of vitamins A, B complex C, as well as containing iron, potassium and zinc minerals. Herbal beer, teas, and wines are commonly made from the flowers of the dandelion plant. The roots can be used to make teas as well as a coffee substitute when dried.

The Iroquois, and other Native American tribes of North America prepared infusions of the root and herb to treat heartburn and kidney disease. In modern times, dandelion is used by herbalists to treat liver dysfunction and as a diuretic. The dandelion flowers have been found to have antioxidant properties. Be sure to contact a medical professional before you use these plants for medical treatment.

The Ohio State University has a research project that aims to make dandelions a go-to source for natural rubber. The type of dandelion is one that is native to Eastern Europe and produces latex in its roots. For information on Ohio State’s work to produce natural rubber from dandelions, go to http://go.osu.edu/naturalrubber.

If you would like a clean and green lawn, there are many options to do so. The easiest is maintaining a healthy lawn that is cut at 3 inches high — the healthy turf will outcompete most weeds. Manual control is possible by digging and pulling them out. You must get at least 6 inches of the taproot or they will grow back.

Most devices work in best moist soil. Commercial chemical controls of the dandelion plant usually contain 2-4-D or the ingredient triclopyr herbicides, which will also kill nearly all other broadleaf weeds in your lawn. Know the risks of using chemicals in your yard and around people and pets. Be sure to read and follow all label directions.

This spring, you can choose to be delighted or dismayed at the first sight of all those dandelion flowers around your home. If you don’t like looking at your lawn this spring, just look up and enjoy all the pollinators in the blooming maple trees. To learn the reasons dandelions are great, go to http://go.osu.edu/dande.

Eister is an Ohio State University Mahoning County Extension Master Gardener volunteer.


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