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   One of the first flower that pops up in spring is the Dandelion. The bright yellow flowers decorate lawns long before it is time to start the lawn mower. Disliked by many it is commonly killed before they seed.
   Dandelion is the common name given to members of the genus Taraxacum.
The bright yellow flowers actually consist of tiny flowers called florets. Many species in the genus Taraxacum produce seeds asexually, which means they can produced without pollination. The parthenogenesis results in so-called jordanons (apomictic microspecies, the smallest unit in plant taxonomy) commemorating the outstanding French mathematician Marie Ennemond Camille Jordan (1836-1922),.
  Dandelions are tap-rooted biennial or perennial herbaceous plants, with their long roots they are hard to dig out of the lawn. The long leaves form a rosette above the central taproot. The leaves push down the surrounding vegetation which kills neighboring plants by cutting off sunlight. The yellow flower head opens in the daytime and closes at night.
   If any part of the plant is broken it will exude a milky sap (latex). As the flower head matures it turns into a spherical "clock" (also known as "wishies") containing many single-seeded fruits (achenes). When the dried petals of the flower drop off and the parachute ball opens into a full sphere. The parachute drops off when the seed strikes an obstacle. On very windy days you will be able to see the fuzzy, cotton parachutes in such quantities that it looks like "dandelion snow."
   As children we would run around and pick the balls, then we would blow on or kick the clock. Oh, what fun that was!
  I just cannot imagine a Mother that has not been given a dandelion flower at least once from her child.
Click the painting above for a larger image!
This dandelion painting by the professional botanical illustrator Sue Abonyi received the
Top Ten Gold Award at ArtWanted.com
  My Mom would take the flower we gave her and put it under our chins. If our chins would turn yellow from the reflection of the flower she would say, "Oh you love butter" then we would laugh.
   We also made necklaces and bracelets from the flower stems. We would remove the flowers and used the stems by "plugging" the narrow top end of the stem into the wider bottom end. Hence the nickname "Child’s Chain Grass".
Taraxacum officinale dispersing seeds
   In the lawn you kill them in the grocery store you pay big money for "dandelion greens". Most people would love the Dandelion wine and tea that is made from the flowers. The leaves can be cooked or tossed in a salad raw. They are high in vitamin A, vitamin C and iron, carrying more iron and calcium than spinach.
   How about jam? Yes you can even make dandelion flower jam, or need coffee, use ground roasted dandelion root. "Dandelion and Burdock" is a soft drink that is very popular in the United Kingdom.
  I could go on and on about the uses of this "weed". It is a source of a liquid plant food, dark red or yellow dye, a cosmetic skin lotion and is effective in fading freckles.
   This lowly weed is also grown for medicinal purposes. If you have a medical problem see if the lowly dandelion might help. The milky latex has been used as a mosquito repellent, applied to warts, corns, and applied to wounds to fight bacteria and help heal. Used as an antioxidant, too.
   Are you really sure you want to dig all those pretty yellow flowers out of your yard?
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