In Praise of the Dandelion

As children, many of us liked nothing better than having a nap on a bank of grass, surrounded by dandelions, daisies, buttercups, butterflies and bees. That was back in the day when your home was less of a showcase than a place to be enjoyed, with picnics on the grass in the summer and with the backyard frozen over to become a skating rink in the winter.

In the 16th century, lawns were first cultivated around castles in France and England, a status symbol for the very rich. In England, in the 17th century, wealthy landowners proudly maintained closely shorn grass, though many of them used sheep rather than human labour to keep the grass short. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the great houses of Britain maintained large well-manicured lawns, usually with the help of hired labour. By the middle of the 20th century grass lawns became the standard for suburban homes. Since that time, for many people, pride of ownership has required that a lawn be green, weed-free, and manicured. As a result, in North America, grass lawns are major consumers of water, pesticides, and a good deal of weekend labour by the homeowner.

On Twitter recently. there were a few comments from a people complaining that there appeared to be more and more dandelions this year, implying that people were being slovenly in failing to remove them and were making the neighbourhood appear neglected.  Almost immediately there were hundreds of responses noting the importance of dandelions for bees and other pollinators as well as noting the health benefits they offer humans.

Many people suggested that the increased presence of dandelions may be a result of environmental organization asking us to stow away our lawnmowers for the month of May in order to allow food sources to bloom and to provide food supplies for insects such as bees, butterflies and ants. In a recent article about “No Mow May,” Matthew Braun, manager of conservation, science and planning with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, noted that, “if we are “looking for ways to contribute to conservation and green ideas and biodiversity in our own backyards,” this is one small thing that could make a big difference: https://globalnews.ca/news/7847490/no-mow-may-campaign-biodiversity/

There’s nothing wrong with dandelions. These sprightly flowers have been used as medicines for centuries in various cultures. Some health practitioners claim that dandelions may offer benefits to humans such as providing anti-oxidants, decreasing swelling, regulating blood sugar and boosting the immune system: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324083  

Many people have also used dandelions to make a delicious dessert wine which has a beautiful golden colour and a flavour that has been compared to mead.

If we don’t think of them as weeds and nuisances, surely we will welcome dandelions as an attractive and beneficial addition to a field of grass or a front lawn.

We might even greet them eagerly as Walt Whitman did (Leaves of Grass)

Simple and fresh and fair from winter’s close emerging,
As if no artifice of fashion, business, politics, had ever been,
Forth from its sunny nook of shelter’d grass—innocent, golden, calm as the dawn, the spring’s first dandelion shows its trustful face.

4 thoughts on “In Praise of the Dandelion

  1. I like to avoid mowing when the birds are raising their young. The resident robin hates loud noises. And of course I encourage the Garry Oak ecosystem and their associated wildflowers: camus, fawn Lillie’s, chocolate Lillie’s.John Lutz wrote a paper about Victoria being chosen for the HBC fort because it reminded people of the lawns surrounding great mansions. The meadows we’re in vogue at the time as so many landscape paintings show. In a letter to James Hargrave, Douglas described the scene: “The place itself appears a perfect ‘Eden’ in the midst of the dreary wilderness of the North…one might be pardoned for supposing it had dropped from the clouds into its present position.” Yes, we live in a garden of eden. Let the wildflowers grow….and the birds and the bees.

    Like

  2. Thanks, Liz. You've always been a protector of the Garry Oak system and a good identifier of wildflowers. And, yes, Protection Island is a veritable Eden. Wherever we are, we can work to support the birds and bees and dandelions. Walt Whitman said it best.

    Like

  3. I like to avoid mowing when the birds are raising their young. The resident robin hates loud noises. And of course I encourage the Garry Oak ecosystem and their associated wildflowers: camus, fawn Lillie’s, chocolate Lillie’s.John Lutz wrote a paper about Victoria being chosen for the HBC fort because it reminded people of the lawns surrounding great mansions. The meadows we’re in vogue at the time as so many landscape paintings show. In a letter to James Hargrave, Douglas described the scene: “The place itself appears a perfect ‘Eden’ in the midst of the dreary wilderness of the North…one might be pardoned for supposing it had dropped from the clouds into its present position.” Yes, we live in a garden of eden. Let the wildflowers grow….and the birds and the bees.

    Like

  4. Thanks, Liz. You've always been a protector of the Garry Oak system and a good identifier of wildflowers. And, yes, Protection Island is a veritable Eden. Wherever we are, we can work to support the birds and bees and dandelions. Walt Whitman said it best.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s