Creature Feature Multimedia

Creature Feature: Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Dandelion bloom opens to the sky. Photo by Emma Dean.

By Emma Dean, CG Science

Located in areas of Europe, Asia and North America, dandelions are perennials which grow worldwide in part because the plant’s belowground taproot infrastructure makes it difficult to eradicate and also because dandelions are capable of surviving in unfavorable conditions whereas other plants competing for the same resources cannot.  Europeans introduced the plant to North America supposedly to provide food for the imported honeybees during the early spring months.  Without one true continent of origination, however, the dandelion has roots in several cultures.

Native Americans boiled the plant in water and used it to treat several conditions including kidney disease and upset stomach.  The dandelion in Chinese medicine had similar purposes such as to treat stomach problems and appendicitis.  Europeans took advantage of the dandelion and applied it as treatments for fever, boils, diabetes and diarrhea.  The dandelion is also a familiar character in traditional Arabic medicine, but the dandelion is currently recognized as an appetite stimulant, as a diuretic and also is used as a remedy for liver problems.

Besides medicinal applications, every part of the dandelion is edible.  Wine can be produced from the flowers which should be collected in early spring before the protective bitterness sets which occurs during the summer months.  The plants are also less bitter in the fall season after summer as well.

Dandelions are an excellent addition to one’s diet as they are rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin C, Vitamin D and others as well as minerals including iron, potassium and zinc.  Though if an individual has an allergy to ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigold, chamomile, yarrow, daisies or iodine, it may be in one’s best interest to avoid dandelions or at least consult with a doctor before indulging in dandelion wine or dandelion salad.

Dandelion seeds are attached to a “parachute” for wind dispersal (or for blowing and making a wish). Photo by Emma Dean.

Fast Facts:

  • There are no poisonous plants that resemble dandelions—which means misidentification is not a common problem.
  • Dandelion leaves are flavorful and added to salads, sandwiches and teas.
  • The root of the dandelion is used in some coffee substitutes, similar to chicory.
  • The flowers open with the sun in the morning and close in the evening or during dreary weather.
  • A parachute is attached to each seed and is dispersed far and wide by wind.

 

Sources:

University of  Maryland

Dandelion:  Science and Safety

Common Dandelion

One Comment

  1. When I first heard about this plant I couldn`t belive the informations… Last year I`ve tried dandelion syrup and must say it taste just like the honey for me… Great and delicious treatment for cold.

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