A dandelion, the poster child on almost any container of herbicide, is despised by homeowners, plucked and sprayed and disrespected in every way. But, has it always been that way? No. The poor dandelion of today was once a beloved flower appreciated for it’s beauty and abundant benefits. Wishes were made while blowing their fluffy seed heads away. Children smiled, rubbing the petals on their noses to turn them yellow. The medicinal benefits of dandelions date back centuries and across continents from Asia to North America. So how did the dandelion end up on the weed wrap sheet? The simple answer, the popularity push for a perfectly manicured lawn.
Before waging a war with the dandelions in your landscape, consider the benefits these age old flowers have to offer. Let’s bring back the respect these little flowers deserve and learn eco-friendly alternatives to managing them, if needed.
Benefits of Dandelions
Nectar for Pollinators
Dandelions are one of the first blooms to emerge in the spring providing early season nectar for bees before other plants awaken. Dandelions also reemerge in fall when other garden blooms are fading. If you must remove them from your yard in the spring, wait until other food sources are available.
They are edible and packed with nutrients
Dandelions are a superfood, more nutritious than most vegetables in your vegetable garden. They are packed with Vitamins A and C as well as iron, calcium and potassium. All parts of a dandelion are edible from the roots to the flower. The leaves make a delicious addition to any salad, closely resembling arugula. Gather young plants in the spring for the best tasting foliage. The flower heads can be a sweet treat on their own or brewed into a brandy-like wine. The roots make an excellent antioxidant packed tea or can be dried and ground as an alternative to coffee.
Other health benefits of dandelions:
- May reduce inflammation
- May aid in managing blood sugar
- May reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels
- May lower blood pressure
- May promote liver health
They are good for your lawn
Yes, it is true. Leaving dandelions in your lawn provides far more benefits than eradicating them. Dandelions have deep tap roots that pull calcium and other micro-nutrients deep from the soil making them available to other plants. Having tried to hand-pull dandelions you may have noticed their wide spreading roots. These roots help to loosen clay soil, aerate the lawn and help to reduce erosion.
Chemical control of dandelions has negative impacts on birds, insects and beneficial soil organisms. Plants rely on nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the soil, insects rely on plants and many species of birds rely on insects. Synthetic herbacides can also can leach into our waterways killing algae, insects and aquatic plants which destroys the food base for other aquatic organisms such as fish.
If you must reduce the amount of dandelions in your yard do so responsibly. A simple method to control dandelions in your lawn is to let your lawn grow. Dandelions are sun loving plants so letting your lawn grow three to four inches tall can shade out dandelions. To remove adult dandelions with a deeper tap root, use a forked dandelion tool.
With a change of perspective and an understanding of their benefits, dandelions can be seen as rays of sunshine in your landscape. They offer a bright welcoming to spring and deserve a little more respect than they are currently given. Having dandelions in your lawn can indeed be, just dandy!