Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Its official name, „Taraxacum officinale”, is derived from the Greek words, „taraxos” meaning „disorder”, and „akos”, meaning „remedy”.
Taraxacum is a large genus of flowering plants in the family Asteraceae. They are native to Europe and Asia, and two species, T. officinale and T. erythrospermum, are found as weeds worldwide. The common name Dandelion is given to members of the genus and like other members of the Asteraceae family, they have very small flowers collected together into a composite flower head. Each single flower in a head is called a floret. Many Taraxacum species produce seeds asexually by apomixis, where the seeds are produced without pollination, resulting in offspring that are genetically identical to the parent plant.
The leaves are 5–25 cm long or longer, simple and basal, entire or lobed, forming a rosette above the central taproot. The flower heads are yellow to orange colored, and are open in the daytime but closed at night. The heads are borne singly on a hollow stem (scape) which rises 4–75 cm above the leaves and exudes a milky sap (latex) when broken. A rosette may produce several flowering stems at a time. The flower heads are 2–5 cm in diameter and consists entirely of ray florets. The flower heads mature into a spherical “clocks” (also known as a "wishie") containing many single-seeded fruits called achenes. Each achene is attached to a pappus of fine hairs, which enable wind-aided dispersal over long distances.
Dandelions are so similar to catsears (Hypochaeris) that catsears are also known as "false dandelions". Both plants carry similar flowers which form into windborne seeds. However, dandelion flowers are borne singly on unbranched, hairless and leafless, hollow stems, while catsear flowering stems are branched, solid and carry bracts. Both plants have a basal rosette of leaves and a central taproot. However, the leaves of dandelions are smooth or glabrous, whereas those of catsears are coarsely hairy.
Origin of the name
The English name “dandelion” is a corruption of the French “dent de lion” meaning "lion's tooth", referring to the coarsely toothed leaves.
In modern French the plant is named pissenlit, which means "piss in bed", apparently referring to its diuretic properties.
In various north-eastern Italian dialects the plant is known as "pisacan" ("dog pisses"), referring to how common they are found at the side of pavements.
In several European languages the plant, or at least its parachute ball stage, is named after the popular children's pastime of blowing the parachutes off the stalk.
In other languages the plant is named after the white sap found in its stem.
The alternative Hungarian name gyermekláncfű ("child's chain grass"), refers to the habit of children to pick dandelions, remove the flowers, and make links out of the stems by "plugging" the narrow top end of the stem into the wider bottom end.
Dandelion leaves and buds have been a part of traditional Mediterranean and Asian cuisine. Once a popular salad green in these regions, dandelion leaves are becoming popular worldwide in restaurants, in braised and salad dishes, and are not difficult to find at farmers markets in the spring and summer. The dandelion plant is truly a weed in the classical sense: "a plant for which we once knew the use but we've forgotten it".
Dandelion is a rich source of vitamins A, B complex, C, and D, as well as minerals such as iron, potassium, and zinc.
In traditional medicine, dandelion roots and leaves were used to treat liver problems. Native Americans also used dandelion decoctions to treat kidney disease, swelling, skin problems, heartburn, and stomach upset. Chinese medicinal practitioners traditionally used dandelion to treat digestive disorders, appendicitis, and breast problems. In Europe, herbalists incorporated it into remedies for fever, boils, eye problems, diabetes, and diarrhea.
Today, dandelion roots are mainly used as an appetite stimulant, digestive aid, and for liver and gallbladder function. Dandelion leaves are used as a diuretic to stimulate the excretion of urine.
Dandelion is generally considered safe. Some individuals, however, may develop an allergic reaction from touching dandelion, and others may develop mouth sores. If you have an allergy to ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigold, chamomile, yarrow, daisies, or iodine, you should avoid dandelion. In some people, dandelion can cause increased stomach acid and heartburn. It may also irritate the skin if applied topically. People with gallbladder problems and gallstones should consult a health care provider before eating dandelion.
It's said that if you can blow all the dandelion’s seeds off with one blow, then you are loved with a passionate love. If some seeds remain, then your lover has reservations about the relationship. If a lot of the seeds still remain on the globe, then you are not loved at all or very little.
The dandelion is called the rustic oracle; its flowers always open about 5 A.M. and shut at 8 P.M., serving the shepherd for a clock.
Legend has it that the number of breaths it takes to blow off all the seeds of a dandelion globe that has gone to seed, is the hour number.
Folklore says that blowing the seeds off a dandelion is said to carry your thoughts and dreams to your loved one.
The dandelion is an excellent barometer. It is when the blooms have seeded and are in the fluffy, feathery condition that its weather prophet facilities come to the fore. In fine weather the ball extends to the full, but when rain approaches, it shuts like an umbrella. If the weather is inclined to be showery it keeps shut all the time, only opening when the danger from the wet is past.
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Fact by ~nicolehg
Special thanks for our photographers! ~chorage