April 22, 2012

Earth Day : Dandelion Tolerance

It's that time of year.  I'm anxiously awaiting our first woodland wildflowers to peek up through the earth.

This week the first few dandelions showed their bright yellow faces in our yard.
The dandelion is considered a wild flower in Minnesota, but it's non-native and highly invasive, so I'm really not a super-fan. (even though I love yellow.)

Dandelions were originally brought to North America from Eurasia as a food crop, and now they are found as weeds world-wide.  There are dozens of different names in different languages (meaning different things!) for the dandelion.  In Finnish it is called voikukka. 

More important to know though, is that the dandelion is responsible for much water contamination, due to the fact that many, many people treat lawns with chemicals to (try to) eradicate it.  
Many chemicals on lawns = NOT GOOD! 

So, we practice Dandelion Tolerance here.  And in honor of Earth Day, and because I'm still waiting for those real wildflowers to emerge, I thought I'd share one of my once-every-few-years-or-so public service announcements, on why the world may be a better place if you practice Dandelion Tolerance, too.

Soon our yard will be full of them, and I admit it is a slight aesthetic nuisance some days, how tall the spindly stems pop up, making the yard look untidy. 

But on the bright side, they do have some good uses & positive attributes. 
Some days they're actually bright & cheery looking. 
And they don't last all that long.

Dandelion is a 100% natural way to paint faces, sidewalks, and more, as Dandelion Warrior Johnathan displays here.   (It's also great as a natural dye for more permanent uses.)
As far as weeds go, the dandelion is actually considered a "beneficial weed" and a good companion plant for gardening, since it's taproot will bring up nutrients for shallower-rooting plants, and add minerals and nitrogen to soil.   Who knew?
Dandelions are also known to attract pollinating insects, and are important plants for bees, providing an important source of nectar and pollen early in the season.   I love it when the bees are buzzing around here.

Dandelions are edible in their entirety, and even offer up high vitamin & mineral content.
So, they're really not that evil. 

And I have to admit, while I have far greater appreciation for the native, more challenging to spot, subtle & shy wild flowers, even the dandelion is fascinating to study up close, and can make for an interesting subject to photograph. 
(old point & shoot image:)
I'm a sucker for the perfect, fuzzy, spheres when gone to seed.  
I just don't get all jumping for joy with enthusiasm & excitement in discovering them. (I admit, I do this for others.)  No rare & spectacular discovery in coming across a dandelion.   
Since they're so abundant & prolific, though, we have no reservations about picking til our hearts content.  We actually encourage the kids to pick these blooms, unlike other native, delicate wildflowers.  It's the best, natural way to get rid of them.
Pick, pluck, pick away!
Some concerning facts related to the use of pesticides to fight dandelions:
Suburban lawns receive more pesticide per acre than agricultural land.
Sixty three percent of commonly used lawn pesticides are carcinogenic.
Lawn pesticides increase risk of childhood leukemia by seven times.
Pound for pound children absorb a higher concentration of pesticides than adults.
Dogs exposed to herbicide treated lawns double risk of canine lymphoma.
Pesticides kill beneficial insects which are essential to a healthy lawn.
Pesticide runoff results in widespread contamination of streams and groundwater.
Twelve lawn chemicals are on the EPA’s list of drinking water contaminants.*
Before you go buying weed killer to spread on your lawn, think about supporting healthy water, people, pets, bees, and non-toxic yards to roll & play in.  
Embrace yellow chins & dandelion chains & endless child's play involving "heads popping off."  
Think dandelion tolerance.
Happy Earth Day!

*I started compiling thoughts on this post a long time ago, and unfortunately cannot trace the source of this info.  Sorry!  But it was good & reliable.  I'll keep looking.
**  http://mydandelionisaflower.org/pesticide-facts/


  1. Dandelion greens make good salad. :)

  2. Well stated.

    Health is more important than dandelion-free lawns. If there is such a thing as a sin, it's highly probably that pesticide application would qualify, IMO. Especially for "image management."

  3. I agree.
    I find myself struggling with a loathing for golf courses.