A Few Kind Words for the Dandelion

editor-headerOne day while “working in the yard”—which is a euphemism for “pulling weeds”—I looked up from my labors and saw, to my dismay, my visiting 5-year old granddaughter holding a fist full of white dandelion blow balls, known, for some reason as the “clock”—the part that holds all those seeds that ride the wind in order to disperse themselves, ensuring that new plants may take root and establish themselves and give people like me a reason for “working in the yard.”

Anyway, as I watched, my carefree little granddaughter began twirling around and with each revolution, these little white, nearly weightless things called, appropriately “parachutes” freed themselves from the “clock” and went drifting off on the air, carrying their seeds.

When the clocks were bare of their parachutes, my granddaughter crossed over to the meadow and returned with another fistful of dandelions and began her happy twirling, again.

“What are you doing?” I said.

She smiled and said, “Planting you flowers.”

From the mouths of babes, and all that…

Dandelions are flowers, of course. Yellow flowers, to be precise. But outcasts. Where you are happy to spend vast amounts of money and time cultivating daffodils for their yellow flowers, you will likewise exert yourself and open your checkbook to be rid of dandelions.

But whoever said the world is a rational place.

Still, inspired by the guileless delight my granddaughter took in these pariah plants, I did a little research. Which is another way of saying I went to Google and typed in “dandelion.”

I learned, among other things, that serious people are working on methods for actually cultivating the cursed plant. Their goal is to commercially farm a certain type of dandelion. These researchers from Ohio State University are hybridizing the Kazakh dandelion, which is native to Kazakhstan, for the latex that can be extracted from its roots and used to make rubber. The Russians had some success with this during World War II and the researchers believe that they could eventually farm the plant at a cost of $100 an acre. After all, it requires no fertilizer, no watering and is invulnerable to pests.

Who knew?

And while we are on that, did you know that:

  • Up until the 1800s people would pull grass out of their lawns to make room for dandelions and other useful “weeds” like chickweed, malva and chamomile.
  • The dandelion parachutes often take the plant’s seeds as far as five miles from their origin… Where they will then take root, stimulating adult gardeners to hours of “working in the yard” and young children much delight in both picking the yellow flowers and blowing on the puffy white clocks thus dispersing ever more seeds and assuring an abundance of dandelions, no doubt forever.

There is more to Spring, of course, than yard work; though at times it surely does not seem so. In this issue we celebrate some of the other joys of the season, to include …Geoffrey Norman’s take on moose and a charming story by Senior Writer Nancy Boardman telling us all about the gracious folks who run the Southern Vermont Therapeutic Riding Center. We also take a long look at long skates— that would be Nordic skates, and a guy who skates with them on ponds in the area, frozen streams and even the ocean. And another guy who collects bricks—really old ones. That and much, much more.