Also see HAWKWEED with different leaves and petal ends : index.asp?pageid=732540
We all think that we know exactly what a dandelion looks like, but there are approximately 250 varieties in the UK. The Botanical Society of Britain and ireland sets out some guidance and refers to sources of more specific identification.
Within West Dunbartonshire we all noticed the proliferation of dandelions in the spring. By mid-summer these had all puffed their heads and seemed to disappear. Then as the summer progresses we had what appeared to be a new dandelion proliferation. What apparently happened was that one or more other species was taking its turn. And to add to them, there were also similar plants with similar seed heads reaching the stage of seed dispersal in similar air-borne ways. We can be fairly certain of the Common Dandelion, but the others will need expert verification.
Common DANDELION : Taraxacum officiniale
Taraxacum officiniale refers to the "common dandelion". This is most likely the one you are familiar with.
The cheerful bright yellow enhances our lawns and fields each spring. It even manages to brighten up the gaps in the paving....
It is much loved. A bonus to every garden. A welcome source of sustainance for many insects including butterflies.
And yet it is much maligned. Why is it characterised as the arch-weed? Why is so much weed killer maliciously applied to it? Why do lawns of living grass have to look just like lawns of plastic replicas? Such enchanting little flowers love the real thing. Next time to watch a tv advert for weedkiller, it will most likely be victimising the innocent dandelion, reconsider what a weed really is - simply a plant in the "wrong place".
The Scottish Wildlife Trust points out : What people don’t seem to realise is that road verges can be a useful wildlife corridor, offering food and shelter to small mammals and insects. One of the champions of these corridors is undoubtedly the humble dandelion. Persecuted by many as an invasive weed, most people don’t seem to understand its true value.
It goes on to note : The flower head or capitulum of a dandelion is actually made up of lots of individual flowers known as florets or ray flowers. Each have stamen with pollen, nectar and a single petal. This is a key feature in daisies and is part of the reason why they are so vital to pollinating insects. With continuous flowering through spring and summer, each floret provides pollen and nectar and therefore a near continuous supply of food for visiting insects.
Of course dandelions don’t actually need insects to propagate through cross pollination. Instead their flowers develop into many seeds forming those puffed out pompoms that many a child has fun playing with. As they blow off they have the ability to create new versions of the parent plant.
Torment the little dandelion with herbicide and you also interfere with various other creatures that depend on it. The lovely butterflies and ever helpful bees are obvious considerations. Did you know that the dandelions have their very own species of root aphid. Before you react with further horror, you need to understand the complex interdependence of many creatures. Take out one that you have a personal aversion for and the whole natural balance is undermined.
Cheerful little flowers.....
....magically transform themselves ......
.....into little reproductive galaxies ready for the right breeze.
Some at different stages in amongst other plants.
OTHER DANDELION SPECIES
There are other plants out there that look very much like dandelions - for instance hawkweed - but we are very likely missing some with West Dunbartonshire.
Watch this space.
If you haven't been persuaded that the dandelion is actually something really special have a look at what David Merry writes on the The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside (See link below for more).
The early 17th century herbalist, Nicholas Culpeper, found it to be a ‘virtuous herb’, and when consumed in the spring you may “look a farther, you may see plainly without a pair of spectacles”. It was most often used for its cleansing quality to treat obstructions of the liver, gall bladder and spleen.
In folklore the dandelion got its nickname, the ‘shepherd’s clock’, because the flower opens after sunrise and closes at dusk.
What’s in a name; history gives us the cross-pollinated word dandelion. The name dates back to the Norman French ‘dents de lion’ or ‘teeth of the lion’.
The Very Well Health website gives us some information on its health benefits.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is a plant often regarded as a weed but one that may offer health benefits by acting as a diuretic ("water pill") or potentially boosting the immune system to help fight infections. It is also said to have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties.1
Naturopaths and other alternative practitioners often contend that dandelion can help treat a wide range of medical conditions—including arthritis, liver disease, diabetes, obesity, and even cancer—although there is little scientific evidence to support the claims.
And for tea? We refer to the Masterclass Articles : Dandelion tea is an herbal tea made by steeping the various parts of the dandelion plant (Taraxacum officinale) in water. Dandelion leaves, flowers, and roots can all be used to make dandelion tea. The result is a nutritious herbal tea that’s packed with vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals—such as vitamin C, magnesium, calcium, and potassium. The flavor profile of dandelion tea depends on which part of the plant the tea is made from. For example, dandelion leaf tea has an earthy, astringent flavor; dandelion flower tea is mild and subtly sweet; and dandelion root tea is bold and smoky.
BOTANICAL SOCIETY OF BRITAIN AND IRELAND : https://bsbi.org/identification/taraxacum
DANDELION : This is an organisation promoting growing plants of all kinds. https://dandelion.scot/
SCOTTISH WILDLIFE TRUST : https://scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk/2016/05/dandelions-the-most-undervalued-wild-flower/
THE GARDEN JUNGLE or Gardening to Save the Planet : Dave Goulson. 2019. Vintage. ISBN : 9781529116281.
MASTERCLASS ARTICLES : https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-make-dandelion-tea
VERY WELL HEALTH website: https://www.verywellhealth.com/the-benefits-of-dandelion-root-89103
THE WILDLIFE TRUST FOR LANCASHIRE, MANCHESTER AND NORTH MERSEYSIDE : https://www.lancswt.org.uk/blog/david-merry/time-and-dandelion#:~:text=In%20folklore%20the%20dandelion%20got%20its%20nickname%2C%20the,de%20lion%20%E2%80%99%20or%20%E2%80%98teeth%20of%20the%20lion%E2%80%99.