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Dandelions Dandelions

Brian Wilson

Trigger warning: If you are one of those folks who enjoys an immaculate golf-course-green level lawn and are passionate about the need to remove all weeds, then you should probably skip down to the end where I attempt to sum up my admiration for a weed plant into a touching commentary on the fleeting nature of youth and how we must cherish every sunshine yellow moment before we drift off like tufts of dandelion fluff on a windy day.

There is a lot to admire about dandelions. Other, fancier and better-pedigreed flowers need copious amounts of care and attention and just the right conditions as far as soil nutrient composition, Ph levels, sunlight and temperatures in order to burst into bloom.

Not so for the humble dandelion whose bright yellow petals can be found across well-manicured lawns or creeping up between the cracks in a sidewalk, on rubbish heaps or among the prized perennials in a garden bed.

May is peak dandelion season in this part of the world. Although dandelions can, and will, grow throughout the season. They put up blooms that quickly turn into snowball stands of seed clusters that the young (and young at heart) pluck and attempt to blow all away in a single breath. Late April through the middle of May is the time when they are most abundant.

This is good news for the insects and other critters that serve as early season pollinators. The dandelions that we curse for popping up moments after mowing the lawn help build a healthy ecosystem in our yards and gardens.

For those who keep track of such things, each dandelion flower produces between 150 and 200 seeds with each plant producing up to 10 bright yellow flowers. On average each dandelion plant will produce 15,000 seeds over the course of a season.

That’s a lot of dandelion fluff and it is no wonder that any bit of space can quickly become overrun with the friendly little flowers.

People with more time than I do, have studied the flowers and found that it takes between nine and 15 days to go from a bright yellow flower into a puffball of seeds waiting to fly away.

For those wanting a science lesson with my meandering thoughts on plants many people consider to be weeds and pests to be eradicated, I will point out that the technical name for the white tufts of sees are pappi and that they are attached to a white membrane called the cypsela. This is the plant’s fruit and contains the seed. Now you can impress your friends by slipping these facts into conversation while attending parties and cookouts this summer.

While dandelions can, and will, grow virtually anywhere, they thrive when the soil is warm and moist and have ample sunshine.

As I was working on a project in my driveway on Sunday morning, I looked out over my yard and saw a cascade of yellow blossoms. By Monday the blossoms had given way to tufts of fluff.

By the time I stopped home from work for dinner on Tuesday evening before heading back to the office to do more work, the tufts were gone and in their place lonely somber stalks, left behind as the seeds drift off to find new places to rest and grow.

This spring cycle of dandelions bursting forth and scattering in the winds, is much like life. Much like seeds on a warm breeze, we land helter-skelter. Those surrounded by lush fields and good soils have a greater chance of success than those surrounded by concrete and broken dreams, but eventually we all find our own place to take root and grow.

If a dandelion could think, perhaps their perception of time would be vastly different than our own. What are days to us from sprouting to flowering would seem as long as the childhood and adolescence of our children. Then in a heartbeat they are gone in their own spring breezes finding their own places to take root.

I smile when I see fields full of dandelions, with their fringed manes of golden petals, much like I smile when I hear the laughter of children at play or when I look at old pictures of my own children when they were little.

Take time to appreciate your dandelions.

Brian Wilson is News Editor at The Star News. Contact Brian at