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Taraxacum megalorrhizon.jpg
Scientific Classification
  • T. californicum (California dandelion)
  • T. carneocoloratum (Fleshy dandelion)
  • T. eriophorum (Woolbearing dandelion)
  • T. laevigatum (Rock dandelion)
  • T. lyratum (Harp dandelion)
  • T. officinale (Common dandelion)
  • T. o. ceratophorum
  • T. o. officinale
  • T. palustre (Marsh dandelion
  • T. phymatocarpum (Northern dandelion)
  • T. spectabile (Showy dandelion)[1]

Dandelions are flowering plants that commonly grow as weeds. Their broad leaves allow them to successfully compete with typical grasses. They are able to produce and disperse many seeds very quickly, and their body design helps them grow in almost any environmental condition. They are very hard to control due to their long taproot that can grow several inches into the ground. The use of herbicides and other effective methods can help control them. Although many people find dandelions very pesky and annoying, they actually have many uses. They can be used in various foods as well as be made into medicines.

Body Design

The body design of a dandelion

Leaves can grow up to 14 inches tall from the root and 3 inches wide in a circular pattern. Each leaf of a dandelion is grooved and constructed in such a way that all of the rain that falls onto it will flow straight to the center of the root. Because of this, the roots of dandelions are always well watered. The leaves are also hairless and shiny, with each leaf cut into jagged teeth. Some people think that the name "dandelion" comes from the French Dent de Lion ("Tooth of lion"), because the leaf looks like the jagged teeth of a lion. The shiny, purplish flower stalk of a dandelion, which is leafless, smooth, and hollow, rises from the root and bears single heads of flowers. In the middle of the stalk there is a bitter, smelly, milky juice which is actually present throughout the entire plant.[2]

The roots of dandelions are known to be quite difficult and annoying to get out. Dandelions have one main taproot that is usually around 6-18 inches long, while other buds sprint form the upper part of the root. If the taproot is not taken out, the plant can continue to grow for years. Many smaller roots grow laterally from the one main taproot. The lower the roots go, the easier it is to receive water from the soil. These deep roots allow the dandelion to easily compete with other plants for the right amount of water and to grow in almost any condition.[3] Dandelion roots are usually dark brown, fleshy, and brittle. The roots also contain the bitter, milky juice that are in the plant's stalk. Roots also contain many vitamins and other nutrients that make them very useful in medicine.[2]

Life Cycle

Dandelion during seedling stage

Dandelions reproduce by producing seeds asexually. The life cycle of a dandelion includes germination, flowering, and seed dispersal. Dandelions reproduce best during spring and in full sun, but they are able to reproduce in almost any condition. During the spring, when temperatures warm to about 50°F, buds begin to appear. Dandelion seeds germinate throughout a growing season which lasts for approximately 8-15 weeks.[4] During this time period, the roots continue to grow deeper into the soil.[5]

After the seedling stage, the dandelion can grow a 6-24 inch long hollow stock. They can be mowed or cut but can still thrive and grow a yellow flower head on the stalk when given the right opportunity. Dandelions can grow year after year if not completely cut out and can reach a diameter up to 10 inches.[5] The flowers radiate outward in a circular formation from the center stock. The flowers tend to open up during the day and close at night. Seed dispersal happens when the flowers develop into seed heads. The seeds travel by means of wind and have a parachute-type structure to help them glide. When the seeds land, they begin to germinate.[4]

Not only can the dandelion reproduce asexually, but it also provides nectar and pollen for flies and bees when in bloom.[2]

Control Methods

One type of weed herbicide

Due to the quick spreading of dandelions, they are one of the hardest plants to control. It is easiest to stop the mass reproduction of dandelions while they are still seedlings. Crop competition, forage management and herbicide options are three main ways for controlling these plants. Herbicides are the most common and successful approach to preventing dandelion establishment, and they are most effective when used in autumn. A combination of different approaches should be used to prevent dandelions from taking over land.[6]

Many different commercial companies sell weed killers that kill dandelions but do not harm the rest of the lawn. Some home owners just use a simple tool to pull up the dandelion from the ground. Although this sometimes works, most people only pull up the above ground part and leave the roots. If the roots are not fully taken out they can grow again. Another method that is less common is to choke the dandelions out. To do this, the lawn should be mowed with a high setting to help thicken the lawn and choke out the weeds. Also, regular weed feeding programs can help prevent weeds from establishing in the first place.[7]


Dandelion Wine

Although many people view dandelions as annoying weeds, they have many uses. The leaves of dandelions can be put into various foods and drinks. Dried leaves can be made into many diet drinks and herb beers. Dandelion beer is a common drink in many parts of the United States and is also made in Canada. Herb beer because is cheaper and less intoxicating than regular beer. Dandelion leaves can also be boiled and look very similar to spinach if made correctly. Because of this, dandelion can be put in various salads and stir fries. Some vegetable soups also contain dandelions in them.[2] Dandelion wine can be made from the flowerhead, while the dried bitter root can be made as a substitute for coffee.[8] Over the years, dandelion coffee has been used more and can be found in almost any vegetarian store or restaurant.[2] Dandelion wine and coffee was commonly made by people in World War II. Finally, dandelions have also been used as a blood purifier as well.[8]

Dandelions contain a bitter, milky juice throughout the entire plant which can be used to make various medicines. Dandelion medicines are used to relieve urinary organs, and kidney and liver disorders. Also, these medicines are not poisonous so patients can take a large number of doses a day. The first mention of the use of dandelion medicine was by Arabian physicians in the 900's-1000's.[2]

Dandelions can be used to make dyes and attract butterflies. Also, dandelions can attract bees, which use them a food source.[9]


Dandelion flowering and seed blow away time lapse.


  1. Classification for Kingdom Plantae Down to Genus Taraxacum USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Web. accessed May 6, 2016. Unknown Author.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Grieve, M. Dandelion Web. Accessed May 22, 2016.
  3. Domenghini, Cynthia. Dandelion Roots SFGate. Web. Accessed May 22, 2016.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Lougee, Mary. The Life Cycle of a Dandelion eHow. Web. Accessed May 15, 2016.
  5. 5.0 5.1 The Life Cycle of a Dandelion Garden Guides. Web. Accessed May 15, 2016. Unknown Author.
  6. Hourdajian, Dara. Control Methods for Dandelions Web. last-modified November 13, 2006.
  7. Prevention and Maintenance Scotts. Web. Accessed May 22, 2016. Unknown Author.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Uses for the Dandelion KEW Royal Botanic Gardens. Web. Accessed May 15, 2016. Unknown Author.
  9. Dandelion Usage Pollen Library. Web. Accessed May 15, 2016. Unknown Author.