Another Look

All I can see is the yellow that carpets the median for, well, as far as I can see. From this place in space I can’t see the scrubby, spready, jaggedy leaves that I know are certainly there. Likewise, from this moment in time, I can’t see the seed heads that I know are certainly coming; seed heads that can be lovely, briefly, and one by one . . .

Close-up of dandelion seed head, almost in cross-section.

. . . but that are ugly in abundance.

Dandelions in seed in early June

And an abundance of dandelions is what we have, pretty much everywhere, thanks in part to a 15-year-old provincial ban on using dandelion spray for “cosmetic purposes” in Ontario.  This ban has had limited effect in our house–my cosmetics routine rarely included dandelion spray–but the effect in our neighbourhood has been marked. Every year the medians and boulevards and sports fields and grassy verges beside walking paths and front lawns all get a little bit yellower. This shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Common dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) are a non-native species in Canada and much of the U.S. [Ed’s note: Oh, those pesky Europeans. What annoying thing *didn’t* they bring with them?] They can dominate an area, crowd out native plants and reduce biodiversity. [Ed’s note: “They” means dandelions, not Europeans.] [Although, come to think of it . . . .]
Halton Master Gardeners

As I drive along the invaded but still-cheery median, I smell newly mown plant stuff. City workers on riding mowers are cutting the few blades of grass and the many dandelions down as close to bare dirt as they can get. But even cutting dandelions right down to the dirt amounts only to a stern warning: It is not a killing blow.

[Only] Two things can kill dandelions permanently—digging them up by the roots or spraying them with an herbicide. Digging up dandelions does not harm nearby plants, but it only works if you remove the entire taproot. Otherwise, the plant will eventually spring up and blossom again. [emphasis added]
Architectural Digest

In true if-you-can’t-beat-em spirit, the Digest goes on to extol growing dandelions, like, on purpose. As if they were, you know, flowers.

Dandelions are beautiful and cheerful flowers. They have a long blooming season and are very easy to grow. During a typical 30-week growing season, you’ll get about three generations of dandelions in your yard.

“A long blooming season” means they’re first up and last out; “very easy to grow” means “almost impossible to kill.” Sigh.

And yet. After I finish my shopping, I pick my way carefully through one of these new-fangled parking lots whose odd placement of concrete curbs is designed to slow traffic to a crawl. A little girl–not a toddler, maybe seven or eight years old–is picking a bright yellow dandelion that’s growing in the scrap of dirt on the concrete curb near her car. She looks happy with her find.

It is, after all, Mother’s Day tomorrow.

This entry was posted in Appreciating Deeply, Feeling Clearly, Photos of Flora and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Another Look

  1. Your “ugly in abundance” point of view on the dandelion seed heads finds an interesting counterpoint in the poem of the week by Helen Gray Cone, who sees them “gray/With pride and noiseless laughter.” Our youngest son’s partner posted a video last week of their toddler daughter presenting a bouquet of dandelions, hand-plunked, laboriously brought up the front steps into the house, and presented to her appreciatively grinning Papa. Another video shows her floating the flowers in several paper cups of water. Such opportunities for gifting and for harmless play that they provide to the littlest ones surely makes their case against the unblemished greensward.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – Toddlers seem not to have an “abundance” bias: They happily pick all roadside weeds, charmed by their diverse colours and shapes. It’s interesting (& delightful) how prevalent that impulse is: to give something of beauty to those who care for us, and we for them.

  2. barbara carlson says:

    I only learned recently the yellow-flowers of dandelions close up at night and open again in the morning! As for the grey stage, I think… leave them alone. Anything to help bees, etc. Insects in general seem to be dwindling rapidly. I haven’t seen a June bug on our balconies in a decade. And car windshields don’t hit any… and John drives an hour day to and from his “office” in the woods. Mosquitoes are another matter. He bought 4 cans of bug spray Thursday, assuming it would be harder to find once summer brings them out.

  3. John Whitman says:

    Isabel – tales about dandelions from my youth. I have seen people even as recently as last week pick young dandelion leaves before the flower stem appears and then boil those leaves as you would beet greens, Swiss chard or any other type of greens and then eat them as a vegetable. My mother tried them once when I was a kid, but even smothered in butter with vinegar and pepper, they weren’t a big hit in the Whitman family.
    Also when I was a kid, one of my aunts used to make dandelion wine, but I think she only did that as a challenge. I was too young to taste it, but I don’t think it got rave reviews. Being picked to make wine didn’t seem to threaten the continued existence of dandelions in the Annapolis valley.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      John – Yeah, I’ve heard about using young dandelion leaves for salads and for wine. I suspect the harvesting window for picking tender shoots before they turn bitter and woody/stringy is vanishingly short, but I’m impressed by people who make the effort.

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