Most people in North America and Europe have seen a Dandelion. You might recognize them by their distinctive yellow flower or their cluster of white seeds. You may have picked one as a child and tried to blow away all the seeds in one breath. It is good luck, you know.
The Common Dandelion ventured from Europe and became widespread in North America taking on disturbed areas, especially suburban land. Those spaces between roads and sidewalks can become critical habitat for many insects in our overly paved world. Dandelions reclaim those not only those in-between areas, they provide a food source for insects and humans.
If the area has not been sprayed by any pesticides or other chemicals, humans can eat the dandelion as well as insects. However, if you’ve never eaten Dandelion before, try a very small amount first before diving in head first to check for allergies and have some Benedryl on hand.
I noticed the Dandelions began to sprout up in May in the Colorado high country between the elevations of 6,500-8,500 feet. As one of the first flowers to appear after the spring snows, they provide critical habitat for many insects including the White-Lined Sphinx Moth and the Painted Lady Butterfly. Bees like them as well.
Since I find the scientific details helpful, I searched several field guides to find out more information about the dandelion. I especially like to know the family that plants reside in to help me form a mental schema of which plants are related.
- No leaves on stems
- 2-16 inches tall
- Introduced from Europe to North America and now widespread
- Found in disturbed land and suburban areas
- Has a taproot and all parts are edible
- Basal and Pinnate
- Lance-like, long with triangles facing back toward roots
- Largest lobe at the end of the leaf
- Yellow, 1.5 – 2 inches wide with ray florets
- 6 – 10 inches high from ground
- Outer rays bent backward
- Single flower per stem, May – August
- Usually gray achenes (small, one seed), 4 – 5 mm
- Stem becomes cluster of while round bristles that blow in the wind to spread
Dandelion & The Nature Journal
Like Big Mountain Sagebrush, the Dandelion fell into the Asteraceae Family due to the structure of their flowers. This discovery did not surprise me for the giant yellow flower of the dandelion, but I remember being quite surprised for the tiny asters in sagebrush.
I find it important to note the shape of the leaves here as well. Before the flowers arrive or after a lawnmower removes them, I can still identify the plant based on the distinctive leave pattern. Because the leaves are basal, or coming from the bottom of the plant, when the stem of the flower is cut, the leaves remain intact on the ground.
As for edibility, I recommend checking out some recipes from Doug and Stacy here. They have a great recipe for tea and salad with some helpful pointers.