The dandelion is not much loved. But Therese Alampo, Manager of St Cyrus National Nature Reserve, is here to tell us the many reasons we should appreciate these cheery, early spring flowers…
The humble dandelion is one of the first flowers of the spring, benefiting many early species of pollinators. As its bright yellow petals fall and delicate clocks form, it gently offers up thousands of nutritious, tear-shaped seeds to the sky. These are of much benefit to many of our birds.
Dandelions are fantastically common plants that flowers for seven months of the year, they’re extremely versatile and grows in a variety of habitats. You will see them in your garden, on your paths, in fields, roadsides, the list goes on and on. The name ‘dandelion’ comes from the french ‘dent de lion’ the ‘tooth of lion’, as the jaggy toothed leaves were thought to resemble a lions mouth and teeth.
They have long been used by people, as well as wildlife, for its many nutritional and health benefits. Dandelions are high in antioxidents, a boost to the immune system and a possible suppressant of cancer cells, to name a few benefits. During the second world war, when coffee was scarce, its roots were ground to make a substitute for a healthy tasty brew; the leaves could even be dried and smoked instead of tobacco! I found it interesting that it was also eaten as one of the bitter herbs during the Jewish Passover Seder.
Have a look out for this flower in your garden; you might see some spring pollinators on them. You can do your bit to help our pollinators and leave them be(e) until they flower, or even better leave them to thrive! Spraying the flowers can be harmful to pollinators, so if you do remove them hand weeding is best.
Thanks to Pauline Smith for the wonderful macro pictures!
All photos (C)Pauline Smith.