THE GREEN PAGE
I am a Dandelion fan, and whether you love them or hate them, they are among the most familiar plants in the world, and quite possibly, the most successful plants that exist, masters of survival worldwide. Before the invention of lawns, people praised them and gardeners often weeded out the grass to make room for them, but somewhere in the twentieth century, humans decided that the dandelion was a weed and so the most unpopular plant, but it wasn’t always that way.
To show the benefits of the once-loved plant, here are some things you might not know about them. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans enjoyed the flower, and they have been used in Chinese traditional medicine for over a thousand years. Dandelions were world-famous for their beauty, a common and loved garden flower in Europe and in Japan horticultural societies formed to develop new varieties. The use of dandelions in healing goes far back for millennia, people have been using dandelion tonics to help the body’s liver remove toxins from the bloodstream, and herbalists still welcome the dandelion as the perfect plant medicine: It is a gentle diuretic that provides nutrients and helps the digestive system function at peak efficiency.
They were once used as healers of many ailments, but it wasn’t until the twentieth century that the underlying cause of many of these symptoms was found to be vitamin deficiencies. Dandelions have more vitamin A than spinach, more vitamin C than tomatoes, and are a source of iron, calcium and potassium. Dandelion roots loosen hard-packed soil, aerate the earth and help reduce erosion. The deep taproot pulls nutrients such as calcium from deep in the soil and makes them available to other plants, so, while most think they kill lawns, dandelions can fertilise. As they are some of the first plants to flower, bees are attracted to them, but Herbicides used on lawns to kill dandelions take a toll on wildlife. Insects need them as a valuable nectar source, and insects are in deep decline.
It has been shown that over 40% of all UK insects are declining, and a third are endangered, so just imagine how much help it would give to wildlife if some Dandelions were allowed to grow. Dandelions will never be eradicated, but perhaps we can learn to love them?