Fig. 1. Dandelion Flower – beauty to behold!
I hope I find you all safe and well and most of all minding yourself and in turn everyone else. The last number of weeks has shown how everything is connected on this beautiful planet - that is our home! Like our own homes we need to mind it and today I want to tell you a bit about the mighty Dandelion. To some of you it may seem a nuisance, to others it’s an absolute beauty (see photos below – I think you will agree!). Anyway, Dandelions are part of that great System that keeps our Planet Healthy and I will try to explain why they are important and why we should cherish them.
Have you noticed that with Humans taking a break to protect ourselves from Covid 19 – how busy Nature has been? There are 1000’s of Dandelions out there and Jelly Fish in Venice!
As children we were familiar with these bright yellow flowers (some called them weeds) growing on roadsides and grassy, waste places, with their wonderful flowers that were around from March to October. We pulled the flower heads off the stalks which are hollow and full of sticky white sap. We noticed their bright yellow flowers which closed over during cloudy weather and at night time, that later became ‘Jinny Joes/ 'Jenny Joes' / 'Dandelion Clocks' (depending on what part of Ireland you were in) which is made of many seeds that were carried in the wind. I still remember blowing them off the stalk and seeing how far they would go.
Did you know that the shape of the Dandelion Leaf is the reason it got its name- Dents de lion (lion's teeth).
Fig 2. Jinny Joe’s/ Jenny Joe’s/Clocks
· You know it as the Dandelion but Botanists use the Latin language (invented by the Romans) to name plants. The Botanical Name for the Dandelion is Taraxacum officinale.
When a plant’s name includes officinale – it means the plant has medicinal and herbal needs. I found this quote on line - 'This herb is a great cure for anyone suffering from consumption. Or if one would be "run down". The leaves of this plant must be pulled and hung up to dry and save. When the leaves are withered and properly saved, some of them can be put in a saucepan and boiling water poured on them and left to draws like tea. After about it being drawing for tin minutes it is taken up and the water strained into a cup and left cool, when it is properly cooled it can be drank. The best dose of it is one cup full before breakfast every morning.' *.
Dandelion was also known as a cure for warts. 'The juiced of dandelion if rubbed to warts for nine days will destroy them'. **
From the National Folklore Collection, University College Dublin. *NFC782:343 and ** NFC782:359, both from Co Kerry.
· The Dandelion comes from a Plant Family known as Asteracea (also known as Compositae); all have flowers that form a whorl as below
Fig. 3 Dandelion Flower Whorl
· All flowers in the Asteracea (Compositae) family open when it’s light and close when its dark, they also move to follow the movement of the sun!
· The nutritional content of dandelion extends to all parts of the plant. It’s a rich source of many vitamins, minerals and fiber. Dandelions were at one time a source of food to many and are still used but don’t spray chemicals on them!
· Dandelion are a rich source of beta-carotene and polyphenol compounds, which are strong antioxidant capabilities that can prevent ageing and certain diseases;
· Dandelions were used in living memory as a diuretic (Dandelion Beds were called ‘Pissy Beds’ – how many of ye remember that?)
· Dandelions - the flowers & young leaves can be eaten raw/cooked – but make sure to wash well;
· Dandelion Flowers are a really important food source for our Bees, the Nectar is both an important food and helps to keep Bees and other Pollinator Species Hydrated – really important when weather is dry.
Bees & Pollinators
Dandelions and a number of other pollinator insects (check this out! https://pollinators.ie/gardens/ ) are under threat worldwide, many of our Bees are threatened with extinction. Nature has shown over recent weeks when harmful Human activity ceases or eases, that it can recover. Everywhere in Galway, Nature has provided a magnificent display of wild flowers including the amazing Dandelion. It is feeding our Bees and other Pollinator Insects at a time when food is in short supply, it has so many other uses that have been forgotten about and those memories we should pass on. I ask you to take a new look at Dandelions, they are mighty, so keep some of them, consider not cutting grass in some places or less often, maybe raise the height of your mower to allow them to survive and flower in your lawn, please, please, and do not use chemicals.
Take Care and Mind Everyone
Senior Executive Parks Superintendent
Galway City Council.