The Dandelion

More on the
delightful dandelion!

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Why don’t we like dandelions?

We nearly all seem to have an innate prejudice against the dandelion.

Elaine Anderson, master gardener programme coordinator at Washington State University, mulls this over: “Why have we come to look upon the dandelion with a jaundiced eye? Quite likely, it was the idea of a perfect lawn that prompted us to take up arms against this esteemed plant. Now, the dandelion’s commercial value stems mostly from the arsenal of weapons we purchase to use against it. If we must continue to look upon it as a weed, let us at least recognise it for the marvellous weed it is.”[1]

An article in Country Life in America in 1909 on lawns and dandelions concluded “a bit of lawn, thickly starred with the glowing yellow blossoms isn’t in itself a bad picture … Why not accept the beauty and find an added joy in the fecundity which gives it to us without trouble or cost and, generally, in spite of ourselves?”[2].

Bees love dandelions – lets try to show them a little love too.

[1] “Dandelions”, Elaine Anderson, Washington State University.
[2] “The Lawn: A History of an American Obsession”, Virginia Jenkins, 1994.

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Folklore and associations with Brigid

Did you know that the dandelion has a rich heritage here in the Emerald Isle?

According to author Niall Mac Coitir, the regard for dandelion in Ireland goes back a long way. His book [3] on Irish wild plants sets out a range of uses for dandelion throughout Ireland’s past, everything from cures for coughs and colds to a “very potent but most palatable wine”.

In older times, the dandelion was known as Brigid’s flower as it is one of the first wild flowers to bloom after her festival. Its bright yellow flower is said to symbolise Brigid’s fire, incorporating both her aspect as goddess of the forge and as Christian saint protector of the hearth and home [4].

[3] “Irish Wild Plants, Myths Legends and Folklore”, Niall Mac Coitir, 2015.
[4] Tonja Reichley, herbalist and student of celtic heritage.


Interesting anecdotes

  • In Chinese, the translated name reads as “yellow flowered earth nail” for its long taproot.

  • The dandelion is in the same family as the sunflower and daisy.

  • Each flowerhead consists of numerous very small florets, each floret being an individual flower in itself [5]. 

  • Dandelions were brought to North America on purpose by early European settlers for their medicinal benefits.

  • Dandelion has shown a remarkable ability to adapt to environmental stress [6].

  • The long roots help to aerate the soil and bring nutrients up towards the surface – “sort of like a herbal earthworm”[7].

  • The plant is widely reported to have diuretic properties – the source of it’s ‘pish-the-bed’ series of names.

[5] Harrap’s Wild Flowers.
[6] “Dandelion Medicine: Remedies and Recipes to Detoxify, Nourish and Stimulate”, Brigitte Mars.
[7] “Dandelion Medicine: Remedies and Recipes to Detoxify, Nourish and Stimulate”, Brigitte Mars.