Sunday, April 17, 2011

Planet's most successful weed: the dandelion

The humble dandelion has travelled or been introduced to most of the planet, and is arguably the world's most successful weed. It's got a lot of neat tricks to maintain that dominance, like the ethylene gas exuded by its rosette of leaves, which discourages competing plants from growing too closely. Or its clever tactic of wafting those seed-parachutes into the wind, where they hitchhike until the relative humidity is less than seventy percent. When the humidity rises, as it does before a rain, the silky hairs close up, and the dandelion seed comes down, plants itself on earth--and gets watered.

Don't let its sunny disposition
fool you--it's winning this war.
Photo by Natalia Romay 
And if you think dandelions multiply so fast in your yard that they must be cloning themselves, you're right: this plant can reproduce regardless of whether its flowers have been pollinated. A dandelion can can regrow from just a portion of its taproot, which can reach two or three feet down to access water and nutrients.

Dandelions in your lawn: you can resist them, you can wage continuous war against them--but they have too many strategic tactics for you to ever claim victory.

23 comments:

  1. I read recently somewhere that humans spend millions of dollars on chemicals to get rid of dandelions. Yet, dandelions are edible- maybe not tasty though. Me, I pull them when I feel like it!

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  2. Dandelions are evil. It's sneaky how they grow back from the root.

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  3. Lisa--Yeah, and how that hollow stem can either stay low and hug the round or grow up long and tall if surrounded by tall grass. Very sneaky.

    Mike B--You are so right! The leaves have more iron, calcium and magnesium than broccoli or spinach! The flowers and root are nutritional too--there are stories of people surviving the Depression, prisoner of war camps and the concentration camps because they ate dandelions.

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  4. There are farmers who grow and sell organic dandelion greens. Wonder if they have troubles with pests, diseases, and vengeful neighbors?

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  5. I never tried the chemical treatments but when I felt like pulling weeds I always knew I could go out to the yard and pull dandelions. Thanks for the post! It's great to know they're edible and they actually have lots of nutrients!

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  6. Dandelions make delicious wine, have wonderful leaves that can be eaten as greens, and are beautiful to look at. What could be better and why do people's lawns have to be perfect anyway?

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  7. why wage war a crop which can look after itself so well it deserves an accolade - and you can use the plant for dyeing fibre and fabric - lets hear it for the dandelion - which smiles full of sunshine and fun

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  8. I've noticed how dandelions have very short stems in a lawn often mowed, but like you say, stand tall in less cultivated areas. Still, dandelions have a certain magic. Have you read Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine?

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  9. How come my great comment isn't showing up here? I just made one and it was posted. Is there a clone in the room?

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  10. I can see it, Alice! I read "Dandelion Wine" years and years ago... Can't quite recall what it's about, or what I thought of it. Now you've got me curious and I'll have to check it out. I haven't read any Ray Bradbury in a very long time.

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  11. Now I know why those little yellow flowers are so prolific. Damn!

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  12. Okay, that does it. I am deducing you and Roxie are somewhere close. We should do lunch or something.

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  13. You are a good deducer, Murr! Let's chat offline.

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  14. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog! I'm looking forward to reading through more of your posts.

    I've always loved dandelions, even if they are considered a weed. Go dandelions!

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  15. Yesterday, walking to work, I saw a man ambling along holding the hand of a young child, who seemed to be new to walking. She toddled along and stopped occasionally to whimper or hang onto his leg. Then he stooped and plucked a dandelion and gave it to her. She was delighted and held onto it as if it were a prize. Beauty in the eye of the beholder.

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  16. Patricia, thanks for stopping by my blog. I am thoroughly enjoying yours. I look forward to coming back and reading more great posts. Have a wonderful weekend and thanks for sharing.
    Smiles

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  17. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog! I'm looking forward to reading through more of your posts.

    I've always loved dandelions, even if they are considered a weed. Go dandelions!

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  18. Okay, that does it. I am deducing you and Roxie are somewhere close. We should do lunch or something.

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  19. Dandelions make delicious wine, have wonderful leaves that can be eaten as greens, and are beautiful to look at. What could be better and why do people's lawns have to be perfect anyway?

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  20. Now I know why those little yellow flowers are so prolific. Damn!

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