Wednesday 3 July 2013

Flower of the Month

Susan is here again with another excellent article for our Flower of the Month.

Dandelion – Taraxacum officinale 
You cannot forget … those golden kisses all over the cheeks of the meadow, … called ‘dandelions’.

It gives one a sudden start in going down a barren, stony street, to see upon a narrow strip of grass, just within an iron fence, the radiant dandelion, shining …, like a spark dropped from the sun.

- both quotes by Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887), American clergyman & writer
The dandelion, that ubiquitous flower, so often despised as a weed today, has so much to be praised for! Considered a bane to gardeners, at least in America, since the 1950s or 1960s when they began to be seen as the enemy in suburban life.  This is probably due to the marketing and advertising strategies of the chemical companies. If their product would wipe out dandelions and other broad-leaf “weeds” in the lawn, they must make the consumer aware of their “need” to eradicate it.  Much attention has been placed on the damage that chemical lawn fertilizers and weed killers are doing to the aquifer in recent years, that it has become more acceptable and even hip to have a weedy lawn.
These cheery, bright yellow flowering plants have long been a favorite with young and old alike.

Children love to pick the flowers, gathering as many as their little hands can hold, then present them as a gift to moms or other loved ones.  Adults love to tell children to make a wish, then blow on the puffy white seed heads to send them floating through the air.  If you succeed in dispersing them all, your wish will come true they say.  A more romantic version of the game is to whisper words of love for someone special into the white puff, then blow the seeds to carry the words to their ears.
WikiMedia Commons

Dandelions are native to Europe where they have been cultivated since ancient times.  One clue that this is a valuable plant can be found in its scientific name, Taraxacum officinale. Whenever a plant has as its species name officinale or officinalis (most all of these are herbs), it means they were considered useful, often for medicinal purposes.  The leaves of the dandelion plant contain very high amounts of Vitamins A, B1, B2 and C, as well as calcium, potassium and magnesium, sugars, protein and other healthful substances.  Recognized for its health benefits as early as the tenth century, the leaves were gathered young and fresh in spring to be eaten raw in salads or cooked like spinach.  This spring staple provided the body with the vitamins and minerals it was deprived while living on a typical winter diet of starches.

Dandelion greens are part of Italian and French cuisines.  Used in addition to salads and sautéed like spinach, they are added to risotto, frittatas and soups.  The flowers are used make wine.

In the Language of Flowers, the dandelion means “faithful to you”. It also represents time and love.
Roses are red
Violets are blue.
But they don’t get around
Like the dandelions do.
Slim Acres, American poet 

When you see a bright yellow dandelion or puffy white seed head in your lawn, don’t be dismayed. Meditate instead on its meaning and reflect on how blessed you are.
graphic by Maurice Pillard Verneuil

For more benefits and uses of dandelions, visit Plants For A Future.

Art Challenge
Use today's post to inspire you to art.  Looking forward to seeing what you come up with.  Don't forget to share it with us.