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Dandelion

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Dandelion
Taraxacum megalorrhizon.jpg
Scientific Classification
Species
  • 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 almost everyone sees growing in their lawn as a weed. Most people hate dandelions because their broad leaves allow them to successfully compete with typical grasses allowing them to take-over. The main reasons why dandelions are so numerous is because of their body design and life cycle. Their body design helps them grow in almost any environmental condition and their life cycle helps them to reproduce many seeds quickly. 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 helpful medicines.

Body Design

The body design of a dandelion

The leaves of dandelions are designed more unique than most people think. Each leaf of a dandelion is grooved and constructed in such a way that all of the rain that falls onto it will go 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 because the leaf looks like the jagged teeth of a lion, that this is how it gets the name dandelion which comes from the French Dent de 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. This is because they have one long, thick taproot that can grow several inches below the ground. Many smaller roots grow lateral out from the one main taproot. The lower the roots go, the easier it is to receive water form the soil. These deep roots are why they can so easily compete with other plants for the right amount of water. The deep roots also help them 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 by means of medicine. The main reason why dandelions are so poorly liked is because of the amazing body design that helps them grow quickly and easy.[2]

Life Cycle

Dandelion during seedling stage

Dandelions reproduce asexually through seeds. The life cycle of a dandelion includes germination, flowering, and seed dispersal. Dandelions reproduce best during spring and in full sun, but they can also reproduce in almost any condition. During the spring, when temperatures warm to about 50 degrees fahrenheit you can begin to see dandelion buds in your lawn. Dandelions have one main taproot that is usually around 6-18 inches long, while other buds sprint form the upper part of the root. This taproot is one of the main reasons why dandelions are so hard to get rid of because if the taproot is not taken out, the plant can continue to grow for years. Leaves can grow up to 14 inches tall from the root and 3 inches wide in a circular pattern. 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 hallow stock. They can be mowed or cut but can still thrive and grow a yellow flower head on the stock 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 dried flowers have gone and then look like puffballs made of small seeds. These seeds travel by means of wind and have a parachute-type structure to help them glide in the wind. When the seeds land, they begin to germinate and thus continues the cycle.[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 because when they have fully grown, they can be hard to get rid of. Crop competition, forage management and herbicide options are three main ways for controlling these plants. Obviously, using herbicide options are most well known and usually most often used. Using herbicides are also the most successful approach to preventing dandelion establishment. Herbicides are most effective when used in the fall. Using a combination of different approaches should be taken seriously to prevent dandelions from taking over land.[6]

Many different commercial companies sell weed killers that kill dandelions but do not harm your lawn. These herbicides are most efficient but there are a few other ways to get rid of them. 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 in the roots. If the roots are not fully taken out they can grow again. Another method that not very many people know about is to choke the dandelions out. To do this you should mow your lawn with a high setting to help thicken the lawn and choke out the weeds. Also, following regular weed feeding programs can help prevent weeds form establishing in the first place.[7]

Uses

Dandelion Wine

Although many people view dandelions as annoying weeds, there are also 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. People usually drink herb beer because it is cheaper and land 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 practiced by people in World War II. Finally, dandelions have also been know to be used as a blood purifier as well.[8]

Not only can dandelions be used in foods an drinks, but it can also be used medically. Dandelions contain a bitter, milky juice throughout the entire plant which can be used to make various medicines. The juice of the root is most often used for this because it is known to be the most powerful part of the plant. Dandelion medicines are also used to relief urinary organs, and kidney and liver disorders. Also, these medicines are not poisonous so patients can take a large amount of doses a day. The first mention of the use of dandelion medicine was used by Arabian physicians in the 900's-1000's.[2] Other than being used for food or medicines, dandelions have a few more minor uses. Most people know that they can be used to make dye but not very many people know that they attract butterflies. Also, dandelions can attract bees, to be used as a food source and might even be its own flavor of honey.[9]

Video

Dandelion flowering and seed blow away time lapse.

References

  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 Botanical.com. 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 columbia.edu. 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.