Orangetip on Dandelion
There are no shortage of spring yellows to choose from the daffodils which are now past their best to the traditional herald of spring the Lesser Celandine flowering amongst our woodlands and hedgerows. Perhaps surprisingly though I am going to pick the humbleDandelion – a weed problem of many a garden.
The warm sunny spring so far as brought a proliferation of Dandelions to gardens, hedgerows and just about any piece of “waste” ground, brightening up many a roadside.
They get their name from their ragged edged leaves. The French thought they were the same shape as the teeth of a lion, and called it 'dent de lion' (tooth of lion).
Their success is due to facts it can quickly colonise areas of burnt or disturbed ground and each plant can produce 5000 seeds per year which can be carried far and wide on the wide on the wind. Already this year the seed heads on some plants have been produced. Dandelions reproduce asexually, with new plants created from the cell of a single parent. They do however produce pollen and provide an important source of nectar to butterflies and bees at this time of year.
At night and in wet weather they close up making a perfect roosting site for butterflies including this female Orange-tip warming up on a recent morning. It is also the larval foodplant of white ermine moth and finches regularly feed on the seed heads.
It is not just useful to wildlife as they are also a rich source of vitamins A, B complex, C, and D, as well as minerals such as iron, potassium, and zinc. It is also known diuretic (hence the old name Wet-the Bed) and can improve the way the kidneys cleanse the blood and recycle nutrients in the body. The first part of the scientific name Taraxacum is derived from the Greek words Taraxos, meaning disorder, and akos, meaning remedy.
So before reaching for the weedkiller have a second thought for how useful this plant can be.