Ok, it probably wouldn’t smell sweet. Dandelions aren’t known for their fragrance. But their reputation as annoying weeds isn’t quite fair either. Some people can’t stand dandelions; a few really love them. Then there are those who feel they should dislike them, but don’t really mind them. Does this dislike stem from society’s negative view of dandelions? In many cultures and earlier times, dandelions have been valued and utilized in many ways. So, if you’re on the fence about dandelions, here are some points in their favor.
Dandelions are edible and nutritious. Like many greens, dandelion leaves are packed with vitamins, including A and C. Leaves can be used fresh or cooked. Dandelion flowers are used to make wine, and dried roots have been used as a coffee substitute. Dandelion greens are available for purchase in well-stocked produce departments, and you can order seeds from culinary gardening catalogues.
Dandelions have been used to treat medical conditions for centuries. Often brewed as a healing tea, the plant is a natural diuretic, used to help liver problems, high blood pressure and other ailments.
Playing with dandelions delights many children. What child hasn’t blown on a dandelion to waft seeds into the air? Most adults can recall childhood games and activities that involve dandelions.
Dandelions provide a good food source for wildlife. A number of bird species, including American Goldfinches and White-throated Sparrows, eat the seeds. Some mammals, including chipmunks, rabbits, and deer, also munch on dandelions. Dandelions even are used as forage for livestock.
Dandelions are pretty, with sunny yellow flowers. Before society labeled them undesirable weeds, dandelions often were used as garden flowers.
Accepting dandelions helps reduce herbicide use and the resulting toxic effects on wildlife. Author Anita Sanchez quotes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as reporting that ‘homeowners use up to ten times more chemical pesticides per acre on their lawns than farmers use on crops.’
The plant’s name has a cool origin. The word dandelion is derived from the French, ‘dent de lion,’ meaning lion’s tooth—a reference to the plant’s toothed, jagged-edged leaves.
Because dandelions produce many seeds and spread readily, they’ve become demonized in societies like ours that promote grass-only lawns. But it’s a good time of year to remember that dislike of dandelions is mostly aesthetic, and to ask whether our quest to be rid of them is warranted (or realistic). Dandelions have many good points, and their beauty—and weediness—is in the eye of the beholder.