Little Earth Stars

“To some the dandelion is a weed; but not to me, unless it takes more than its share of space, for I always miss these little earth stars when they are absent. They intensify the sunshine shimmering on the lawn, making one smile involuntarily when seeing them. Moreover, they awaken pleasant memories, for a childhood in which dandelions had no part is a defective experience.” – E. P. Roe

I am among those who don’t think of dandelions as noxious weeds, but rather as “little earth stars” that indicate that spring has well and truly settled in and will soon morph into warm, summery days. I remember a fascination with these golden blooms as far back as I can remember — who can’t remember making “chains” from their stems, or making a wish while blowing the fluffy, parachute-like seeds into the wind, or gathering a handful as a bouquet for your mother. Almost everyone is familiar with dandelions and I thought I’d share a few interesting facts I discovered while researching them.

– The word dandelion comes from the French name for the plant, dents de lion. This means teeth of the lion and refers to the jagged edges of the leaf of the plant. The other French name for this plant is pis-en-lit, in English this means wet the bed. Dandelions apparently earned this name because their greens, when eaten, act as a diurectic.

– Dandelions evolved about thirty million years ago in Eurasia, but can now be found everywhere on the planet.

– Each year, 55 tons of coffee substitutes made from roasted dandelion roots are sold in England, Australia and Canada. In Wilton, Maine, there’s a cannery that imports and cans only dandelion greens.

– The dandelion provides an important food source to bees. The pollen from this plant helps bees in the spring because it flowers early and the flowers continue through to the fall providing constant food. In fact, no less then 93 different kinds of insects use dandelion pollen as food, and their seeds are an important source of food for small birds.

– Tender spring dandelion leaves make an excellent addition to salads; they can also be cooked like spinach. Older leaves tend to be bitter. The flowers can be used to make dandelion wine, syrup, and jelly. (Do not use plants where any chemicals have been sprayed.) They are a good source of Folate, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Copper, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Thiamine, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Iron, Potassium and Manganese. Phew!

– The dandelion is sometimes referred to as the “Clock Flower” — legend has it that the number of breaths it takes to blow off all the seeds of a dandelion globe that has gone to seed, is the hour number. If blowing seeds is not your idea of telling time, consider this — the dandelion is called the rustic oracle; its flowers always open about 5 A.M. and shut at 8 P.M., serving the shepherd for a clock. [“The Child and Childhood in Folk-Thought,” by Alexander F. Chamberlain]

A versatile plant, don’t you think? My attitude toward dandelions softened many years ago; perhaps more an “if you can’t beat them, join them” impasse. But I do enjoy their cheery, yellow faces, even when they dot the lawn. “Little earth stars”, indeed.

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Author: nancybond

A writer, photographer, naturalist from small town Nova Scotia, Canada.

16 thoughts on “Little Earth Stars”

  1. Hi Nancy – I’ve also seen the roots used in stir fry. I first came across this on a blog by a self sufficient family who lives west of me, really and truly out in the middle of nowhere. Dandelions are an important food source for them, especially in early spring when last year’s harvest is running low and the garden isn’t doing much yet.

    What a great post!

  2. A nice follow-up to your earlier Dandelions post with some interesting facts. I will have to try some of the food options on the safe plants in our backyard.

    I am seeing some bloom in our area, but none in our yard/garden yet.

  3. I so agree with you on this. If they weren’t so common we would be buying them in garden centres for their lovely flowers.

  4. So many interesting facts – I will try and see them in a kinder light, and not be so cross with them as they take over my garden!
    Regards
    Karen
    An Artist’s Garden

  5. Nancy .. I love the term “earth stars” .. and I have always wanted to try dandelion wine but haven’t come across it yet (my girlfriend gave us a bottle of wine called “Cat Pee” .. yes .. I shook my head and LAUGHED !)
    Those are amazing tid bits about the dandelion .. so much folk lore, really interesting !
    I loved blowing the seed heads away .. buttercups were the flowers to tell us whether we liked butter or not .. as if anyone didn’t ? LOL
    Very nice post ! Thanks !
    Joy

  6. That’s very interesting :) I just made a post about dandelions as well :) I discovered self made dandelion syrup – it is great and it is not possible to to buy it at stores, so if you would like to try, this is the time :)

  7. A very interesting post. The more I read about dandelions and learn of the folklore around them and their many uses, the more I like them. We should start a campaign… let the dandelions (and clover and other lawn weeds) be!

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  8. Dandelions rule. I don’t consider it spring until the dandelions and violets have started to bloom (usually late April; this year it was closer to the beginning of May), and I kind of look forward to seeing them. Eating them, not so much.

  9. What an interesting post. I never knew there were so many uses for dandelions! Of course God makes everything for a reason, right?

  10. Nancy,

    It’s a dandy little flower…and lives happily in my ‘lawn’ with the other weeds;) But I prefer he not move into the beds. He gets too exuberant. Thanks Nancy for this tribute to the much maligned. Dandelion.

    Gail

  11. What an interesting post. So many ionteresting things. I did not know that about their evolution.
    Best,

  12. bees also like the dandelion flowers. There not my favorite though. However, the seedheads are so cool looking

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