Dandelions: One of our favorite perennials



Before we all knew “better,” we loved dandelions! Those glorious pops of color, fields of gold as far as the eye could see! Remember gathering them up into sweaty little bouquets and presenting them with a flourish to our loved ones?

Later, the magic really happened when they went to seed! Every child knows these little puffs of wonder are in an elite league with birthday candles, stars, ladybugs, and fallen eyelashes – messengers of our dearest wishes.

But, then someone, probably the same party pooper that “illuminated us” about the Tooth Fairy, told us these little bursts of lawn sunshine actually were weeds. A problem. A scourge. Said we should demolish them at any cost – spraying them with poison, wrenching them up by their roots.

We should have trusted our earliest instincts.

A.A. Milne, author of Winnie-the-Pooh, knew. He said, “Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them.”

Now we know that pollinators are in peril. Due to habitat destruction and other environmental threats, we are losing essential populations of bees, butterflies, and birds. We rely on plants for food, clothing, medicine, and shelter – and plants rely on pollinators to survive.

And, since in many areas, dandelions are in flower for several months, they are a pollinator staple for several types of bees and butterflies, even birds like goldfinches and house sparrows who snack on the seeds.

So, this spring, instead of spraying, mowing, and yanking in a futile battle with these fierce flowers, maybe put up a little sign instead. “Our weeds are feeding bees.” Nature’s flora and fauna will thank you!

SOME FOR YOU SOME FOR ME

Dandelions aren’t just tasty for buzzing garden visitors. They are incredibly healthy for humans, too! In traditional medicines, dandelion roots are used to treat stomach and liver maladies, aid in lactation. In fact, every part of the plant – flower, root, leaves, stem – is edible.

Leaves, cooked as greens or brewed as tea, are bursting with vitamins and antioxidants—among the most nutrient-rich greens available – much more than even kale! Calcium? More than a glass of milk. Flowers can be made into wine, and roots crushed to make your new favorite coffee. Just remember to save some for the pollinators! 

MORE POLLINATOR FAVES

To create a garden that is an oasis for pollinators, consider these tips!

  • Focus on plants native to your geographic area. Coneflowers attract bees and finches; milkweed, monarch butterflies; honeysuckle draws hummingbirds.
  • Variety is key, include night-blooming flowers for bats and moths, and plant species that bloom at different times during the season, so pollinators have a constant food source.
  • Leave a few dead tree limbs and branches – some species of native bees use them to nest.
  • Try to avoid pesticides or use non-toxic versions when absolutely necessary.