Taraxacum officinale | Common Dandelion
Common Dandelion, also known as Lion’s tooth, Priest’s crown, Swine’s Snout, Cankerwort, Wild Endive, Pissenlit, Yellow Gowan, Puff Ball, and Blow Ball, is an edible, hardy, perennial flowering herb that’s easy to grow with little-to-no care or attention. Dandelions have been used for thousands of years. They are considered to be native to the Mediterranean where they were known quite well by the ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks, as well as in traditional Chinese herbalism. While many people think of the dandelion as a pesky weed, they are actually highly nutritious, containing vitamins A, B, C, and D, as well as minerals, such as iron, potassium, and zinc.
Taraxacum officinale has shiny, hairless, deeply-notched, toothed, spatula-like leaves that funnel rain to the roots. The hollow stems support bright-yellow, round flowers that resemble the sun. The flower head looks like one large flower, but is actually comprised of many tiny individual flowers called ‘ray florets’ that open up in the morning sun and close in the evening or during gloomy weather. The flower head eventually becomes a spherical puff ball of seeds with extensions on them that serve as a parachute and helps dispersal by wind. These plants not only have one of the best means of seed dispersal, traveling up to 5 miles away, but they are perennials, too!
Dandelion plants can be grown in full sun to part shade. Plants grown in part shade are often superior in size to ones grown in full sun. They also respond well to fertilization. They are a great marker for a toxin-free area, as they are sensitive to pesticides and herbicides. A yard that’s free of dandelions is surely one where poisons have been sprayed.
The entire Taraxacum officinale dandelion plant is useful. The leaves are used to add flavor to salads, sandwiches, and teas. The roots are used in some coffee substitutes, and the flowers are used to make wines. Dandelion has also been used to make dyes. Pale yellow dye was made from the yellow dandelion flower and a purplish hue was derived from the inner ribs of dandelion leaves.
Various pollinators visit dandelion flowers, particularly early on in the year when almost nothing else is blooming. Honey bees, mason bees, flies, ants, and others.
Sun exposure: Full sun to part shade
Mature height: 14-17 inches
Mature width: 24-28 inches
Hardiness zones: 3-10