We’re all familiar with the dandelion, Taraxacium officinale, a member of the Asteraceae family with tiny flowers or florets collected together into its composite, bright yellow flower head. Dandelion roars to life come springtime to aid us in flushing out a rich accumulation of debris from the indulgence of richer wintertime fare, helping us to rebuild and support our health. Then in late summer, it blossoms again as a reminder that it’s there to help us ease into the winter rhythms after the sweet excesses and energetics of summer and autumn.
Named for the French “Dent de lion”, meaning lion’s tooth from the appearance of its tooth-edged leaves, the whole plant has a rich tradition as a food and beverage source plus it is used in folk and modern herbal medicine. Actually its best known medicinal attribute as a diuretic is in it’s French name “Pissenlit” meaning piss-a-bed.
One hundred to three hundred florets making up the blossom and may be pollinated by insects, by the wind or according to a website “Buzz About Bees”, they have even evolved a unique method to pollinate themselves: “The stigma grow through the middle of the anthers. As this happens, pollen is automatically transferred onto the style. If no insect aids the pollination process, the stigma curls back on itself, picking up the pollen that caught onto the style below”. Thus even when it’s shut tight and unable to open because the weather is gray and there’s a lack of sunlight, it can pollinate itself by a process called apomixis which develops seeds identical in genetics to the parent. Sunny days and insect pollination, on the other hand, lead to a healthier diversity of plant seed. For a really good photographic showing of the apomixis process: http://cabinetofcuriosities-greenfingers.blogspot.com/2015/05/bees-need-dandelions-but-dandelions.html
The flowers open and close for three or four days and then stay closed for good, forming seeds inside. When ready, the stem grows high to catch the breezes, and on a dry day the seed head turns inside out forming the familiar “blow-about top” to be dispersed where they may. Cut open a seed-forming elder and examine the cycle for yourself.
Here is a photo journal in celebration of the dandelion seed head’s cycle. I hope you enjoy this aspect of the plant that many of us take for granted or bemoan that more seeds mean more weeds.
Come, rest a moment,
join me in community,
see me as bud, blossom and elder
waiting for the rhythms of the year
to open me to the heavens,
that I might pollinate and propagate.
And stand please
rejoice when I pose
on tippy-toes and twirl
with the wind o’er the meadow
on a journey of a lifetime.
Until our next journey together, may your travels be safe and peaceful. ~ P