Do you love dandelions or hate them? They can be a pretty pop of yellow in your yard in the spring, but many people do not like them growing in their grass.
Dandelions are the most common weed in America, and they grow everywhere across North America. Each spring, Americans declare war on dandelions, but the plants have an advantage, because they easily tolerate many different soil and climate conditions. They are also important to the ecosystem because they are a good food source for essential insects.
It wasn't until recently that the dandelion was declared an enemy. Until the 20th century, when lawns like we have today became common, dandelions were just another plant in the landscape.
If you need a little help appreciating dandelions, here's five things you probably didn't know about them.
They actually help your lawn
Hard as it is to believe considering how hard we work to get rid of them, but dandelions are actually good for your yard. Their roots spread widely underground, which helps loosen hard-packed soil, aerate the ground and reduce erosion. Because their roots grow so deeply, they help pull nutrients from deep within the soil up to ground level, which makes them available to other plants, like your lawn. In addition, dandelions help fertilize the grass they grow in.
Have you heard of dandelion greens like you might have in a salad? Did you know these greens are the same as the dandelions that grow in your yard? The leafy greens of the dandelion plant are very healthy, rich in vitamin A and vitamin B12. Eating just 1 cup of the greens has twice as much iron as the same amount of spinach and contains more than 500 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K. Common food uses for dandelions include using the greens in salad or sautéing them as you would other greens. Dandelion greens are sometimes sold in stores in a mixture of greens called mesclun.
One warning: Do not pick dandelions from your yard or anywhere in your neighborhood without help from a responsible adult. You should only pick greens from areas that you know have not been treated with chemicals. Always wash all parts of the plant before preparing them.
They have healing properties
For centuries, parts of the dandelion plant have been used as medicine. They have been used to create tonics that people drank to help the liver remove toxins from their bloodstream, and dandelions have also been used to treat ailments ranging from warts to the plague.
Among the ailments and conditions they have been used to treat were lethargy, depression, fevers, rotting gums, sores, toothaches, baldness and dandruff. Centuries later, scientists learned dandelions were helpful in treating some of these conditions because they were caused by vitamin deficiencies. Even today, herbalists use dandelions to improve human health.
They can grow — and keep growing — just about anywhere
What is it about dandelions that make them so hard to get rid of? First off, they can take root almost anywhere. They will even grow between cracks in a sidewalk or in gravel and cement.
Dandelions are also fast-growing plants, and they live a long time. Both of these characteristics help them grow in places where other plants do not. The roots of a dandelion plant continue growing downward through the years, reaching up to 15 feet deep.
Dandelions also produce a lot of seeds. Each plant can make up to 20,000 seeds! Those seeds are part of the childhood rite of passage of picking a dandelion that has gone to seed and blowing on it while making a wish.
Their name may make you roar
The word dandelion is from the French term "dent de lion," which means lion's tooth. The name for the plant was inspired by the jagged edges of the plant's leaves, which look like the teeth of a lion.
In France, dandelions are called pissenlit, which translates to "pee the bed." The name is a reference to the plant's effect as a diuretic when eaten. Diuretics make people go to the bathroom more than usual.
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