Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

bumble bee feeding on dandelion flower

At this time of year Dandelions create a swarth of colour round our farm tracks, yards and field margins. The striking yellow flowers are made up of about 200 ray florets and are borne on an unbranched, hollow stem. The leaves have backward facing lobes. Dandelions reach a height of anything between 5 and 30 cm with flower heads 2.5cm to 4.5cm wide. The flowering time is long, from March all the way to October so are good for insects. They are an important source of nectar early in the season for particularly bees and certain early emerging butterflies. The flowers close at night time and mature into fluffy seed heads often called “clocks”. A light wind disperses these seeds far and wide.

cluster of dandelion flowers

The name Dandelion comes from the French dents-de-lion meaning “Lions teeth”, thought to come from the teeth effect on the leaves. Dandelions are perennial and edible in their entirety, they are found across all continents and have been consumed for thousands of years. The leaves contain many vitamins and are used in many dishes across the world, and the petals are often used to make wine. Roots, once ground and roasted, are used to make caffeine free dandelion coffee.

Dandelions feature in many natural medicines and herbal remedies across the world. The white liquid in the stems is a natural form of latex which can be used to make rubber. In Germany a cultivar has been created especially to source rubber from and as of 2014 the first rubber tires made from these Dandelions were scheduled to be tested.